The Shepard Family: Advocates for CPR and AEDs

At 32 years old, Cheri Shepard didn’t expect to suddenly be raising three young children by herself – or becoming an advocate for CPR and AEDs.

Yet that’s what happened when her husband, Derrick, collapsed while playing racquetball. A former Oklahoma University and NFL football player, Derrick died before an ambulance arrived and assistance was provided.

“Nobody did anything to help him,” Cheri said. “There was no hands-only CPR, no AED. You’d think at a gym, someone would be equipped to help him. It was eight minutes before the ambulance arrived. Nobody even knew to check him.”

That left Cheri with children ages nine, six and three. Her husband, who was 35 when he died, had just taken a job as an assistant football coach at the University of Wyoming. The family had stayed back in Oklahoma.

Unsurprisingly, her husband’s death required a life trajectory change for Cheri.

“I had to re-group and re-prioritize,” she said. “I had to think about what were my goals and what I needed to do, knowing I was the head of the family. I had to think what if something happens to me. I didn’t want to leave them alone.”

Family pitched in and helped Cheri with the children, especially as they became increasingly more involved in extracurricular activities.

“They were always running. One would be at football and one at ballet and another somewhere else,” she said.

Cheri persevered, helping her young children become successful adults.

On April 8, Cheri and her son, Sterling, who followed in his father’s footsteps at Oklahoma and in the NFL with the New York Giants, will be featured guests at the 2024 You’re the Cure at the Capitol day in Oklahoma. They will help advocate for a bill going through the Oklahoma state legislature that would require schools to have Cardiac Emergency Response Plans.

“We’re going down the right path with training and plans, and if they have AEDs on site, even better,” Cheri said. “If we have more AEDs and more people trained, we can save some lives.”

You can join the Shepards at our Oklahoma You’re the Cure at the Capitol day on April 8 by clicking here.


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