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Charly Haley , Published October 06 2012

Mother of Perham teen who collapsed during game publishes book

PERHAM, Minn. – Meridee Gabbard was never a writer.

But when her son collapsed on a basketball court two years ago due to cardiac arrest, suffered 30 minutes without oxygen and spent months in recovery, Gabbard needed a way to cope.

During her son Zach’s recovery, Gabbard started a journal.

Piecing together journal entries and memories, Gabbard recently self-published a book, “You’re Never Promised Another Day.”

“It was hard to write, emotionally,” Gabbard said, “but I’m glad I wrote the book.”

The Perham High School junior fell during a game against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton on Jan. 20, 2011. He was quickly transferred to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo and was eventually taken to the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis during his months of treatment and recovery.

Zach Gabbard’s story made headlines across the region, and his CaringBridge website drew many supporters from around the country.

His mother said she doesn’t know why so many people felt connected to Zach’s story, but she’s grateful for their support.

“It was unreal,” she said.

One reason Gabbard decided to write the book was for Zach’s followers.

So far, through word of mouth and a post on Zach’s CaringBridge site, “You’re Never Promised Another Day” has received a positive response.

“It feels fantastic,” Gabbard said.

In addition to writing for Zach’s supporters, Gabbard also wrote the book to help herself heal.

“It’s a very emotional book,” she said. “I probably proofed it about 100 times, and I cried every time, in different parts.”

It’s still heart-wrenching for her to think about what happened to her son, and she said she still doesn’t know when she’ll be fully over it.

“When you almost lose a child, that’s a horrible, horrible feeling,” Gabbard said.

Zach is now attending college at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls. He suffers some memory loss and has an implantable cardiac defibrillator. Zach hasn’t regained enough strength to join a basketball team but plays intensively on his own, his mother said.

Gabbard said she and her husband are confident that Zach’s health will only continue to improve.

“I don’t want people to be afraid that he’s going to go down again,” she said.

“You’re Never Promised Another Day” is available for purchase through Gabbard by emailing mgabbardzg3@hotmail.com or at caringbridge.org/visit/zach gabbard.

It’s also available at Gathering Grounds in Perham and Lundeen’s in Fergus Falls.

Gabbard said she will try to get the book into more small bookstores in the region, where people who followed Zach’s story may live.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Charly Haley at (701) 235-7311