The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 19, 2013

A Don McCormack column: A mother’s mission of love

For the Star Beacon

— Imagine, for a moment, your worst nightmare coming true.

Picture yourself living with it... every day, for the rest of your life.

Welcome to Linette Derminer’s world.

The other night, I was at Pymatuning Valley High School and leaned against a wall in the gymnasium. I straightened because I realized I was leaning against something.

It was a automatic electronic defibrillator.

And my thoughts immediately turned to Linette Derminer... then, her son, Ken.

Almost 13 years ago, June 8, 2000, it was a normal spring Wednesday.

Ken, a sophomore at Geneva High School, was at the final day of a week-long football clinic run by the Eagles’ football staff at the old high school.

Just before 4 p.m., he collapsed. At 5:12 p.m., he was pronounced dead at Memorial Hospital of Geneva. An undetected heart defect killed him.

He was 17.

Ken Derminer would be almost 30 had he survived that day. Not only would he be the oldest child of Linette and Mark, but also the older brother of Rebecca and Markie.

While no one can know for certain, there’s a chance having an AED close by might have saved his life. The machine shocks the heart back to life.

Since that tragic spring Wednesday in June 2000, Ken’s mom has made it her life’s mission to get AEDs into every venue possible so that no other youngster is lost in a similar fashion, especially for lack of the availability of an AED.

Back then, no one knew how crucial an AED was. Now, thanks largely to the Kids Endangered Now (KEN) Heart Foundation formed by Linette Derminer, it’s almost common knowledge.

Seeing AEDs at schools is a policy of normalcy. Coaches are trained on how to use them as part of their certification process.

Linette’s KEN Heart Foundation raises awareness and prevention of sudden cardiac arrest in all youngsters, including athletes.

In conjunction with the Geneva Medical Center Community Outreach Nurses Program, the foundation provides heart health education and training.

Linette teaches the class at every high school in Ashtabula County twice a year. She was featured on our front page in Monday’s edition doing exactly that.

The American Heart Association and the Red Cross report the chance of surviving sudden cardiac arrest moves from 3 percent with CPR to 50 percent with CPR AND the use of an AED.

For every single minute that goes by without defibrillation, a cardiac arrest victim’s chances of survival decreases by 10 percent. In other words, after 10 minutes, the chances of surviving an attack are practically non-existent.

I remember the last time I spoke to Linette, I believe it was the fall of 2001.

And Linette’s words haunt me to this day.

“If they only knew... ”

Those four words, uttered by Linette to me more than a decade ago, still give me goosebumps.

Parents aren’t supposed to outlive their children. It’s just the way this life works. However, as we all know, there is no road map in this journey.

It’s a trek filled by twists and turns, detours and, in the case of Ken Derminer, tragedy.

Faced with two choices — crawl up in a ball and disappear, or attempt to turn the tragic loss of her eldest into whatever could be done for the greater good — Linette chose the latter. How many of us would be brave enough to make the same choice?

And all of us who watch young people compete in extracurricular activities that require physical exertion, almost without giving it a second thought, should thank her with everything we can muster.

I remember asking Linette all those years ago what she believes any and every parent who loses a child would give to save their life.

“Anything, everything... believe me, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do!” she said. “That’s why we are doing this in Ken’s name, to do all we can to make sure another young life is not taken.

“If everyone only knew... if they only knew.”

We don’t know Linette’s pain... how could we?

But, we do know — we know about the importance of AEDs.

And Linette’s tireless efforts are only noticed because another tragedy such as the one that took her son almost 13 years ago has not happened since.

We can all thank God for that. So, too, we should thank Linette Derminer.

That’s her son’s legacy.

McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at