‘We are Hailey Strong,’ nation rallies for Midlothian teen after heart attack

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RICHMOND, Va. – A social media campaign for a local graduate and 19-year-old Air Force cadet in critical condition after a massive heart attack has gone national, with people rallying behind the message “We Are Hailey Strong.”

Hailey Lane, 19, was home over spring break from the Air Force Academy on March 23 when she had a massive heart attack at Midlothian’s ACAC gym.  A nurse employed at the ACAC, along with an anesthesiologist who happened to be working out that day, worked frantically to revive her.

She was without a pulse for more than 20 minutes. Doctors were able to restart her heart at Chippenham Hospital, but Hailey just barely clung to life as her kidneys failed several times, her twin sister Savannah said.

Hailey Lane in uniform with younger brother.

Hailey Lane in uniform with younger brother.

Hailey, in her second year at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, graduated in the top five of her class in 2013, from Midlothian High School.  She is an Academic All-Americans honored swimmer who was recruited to swim by all the military academies.

Her twin Savannah is a second-year student at the University of Virginia. The girls will celebrate their 20th birthday this week.

Hailey decided on Sept. 11, 2001, while in the first grade, that she wanted to serve her country.  Her mother was supposed to be on a tour of the Pentagon that morning, but missed the tour bus. The children -- Hailey is one of five --were frantic when they couldn’t reach their mother and thought she was inside in the Pentagon.

No one predicted that behind Hailey’s athleticism and drive lurked a heart attack, especially in her teenage years. The family will soon all have tests run to see if there is an unknown condition in the family, her sister said. For now they are at Hailey’s side praying for her recovery.

Hailey was stabilized and transferred to VCU Medical last week, where she remains on an ECMO machine that pumps her heart and breathes for her.  Her heart capacity, originally at five percent, has slowly improved to 35%.

Doctors are hoping to take her off life support on Tuesday as her body grows stronger. She has not fully regained consciousness, but she has opened her eyes a few times, her sister Savannah said, and responds to familiar voices.

It is too soon for doctors to determine how extensive the damage to her heart and body will be.

Hailey and family

Hailey and family

Hailey, on dialysis, could lose a leg, or part of a leg, because of blood pressure issues, though doctors are unsure at this time. However, the prognosis is better in that area than it was a few day ago, her sister said.

Hailey’s family, her twin Savannah, set of older twins, a 10-year-old brother and her parents Brigid and Dennis Lane, continue to ask for prayers of support.

Savannah said the family is overwhelmed by the outpouring of love. She described her sister as “My sweet, sweet angel; my soldier; my twin.

“Fight on baby girl,” she wrote.

From Facebook user: Flava Dance.

From Facebook user: Flava Dance.

A social media campaign to support Hailey and her family grows by the day, with a call to action to say prayers for Hailey, and/or post the message "We Are Hailey Strong" on social media. On Monday morning, one of Hailey's friends talked about her on the Today Show, and Al Roker blew a kiss to Hailey.

The “We are Hailey Strong” movement includes several swim teams from colleges across the country holding up messages written on yellow signs, Hailey’s favorite color.

The Air Force Academy, along with schools across the state -- U.Va, JMU, Liberty and Virginia -- have posted Hailey Strong messages. With the campaign gaining momentum, swim teams from Duke, UNC, University of South Carolina, University of Southern California, and even the Arizona Diamondbacks Baseball team, had posted pictures of support by Sunday night.

The staff at the ACAC, where Hailey collapsed, will wear yellow on Tuesday to show their support.