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'Keeping the faith:' Perham community comes together following collapse

Perham high school students visit the vigil set up for Zach Gabbard. Photo by Sam Benshoof.1 / 2
The vigil set up for Perham junior Zach Gabbard. Photo by Sam Benshoof.2 / 2

Zach Gabbard, the Perham high school basketball player who collapsed during a game last week, remains in critical condition at the University of Minnesota Medical Center as of Wednesday morning.

Since his collapse, members of the Perham community have come together in support, hoping their cheers, thoughts and prayers will help save his life.

As of Tuesday morning, more than 57,000 had visited a web site that is tracking Gabbard's progress since he collapsed Thursday during a basketball game in Glyndon, Minn.

Meanwhile, those back in Perham set up a candlelight vigil at the high school to keep the well wishes alive throughout the night. Students posted messages on a bulletin board and placed a Perham jersey, a basketball, stuffed animals and more.

On Sunday afternoon, Calvary Lutheran Church in Perham also hosted a prayer gathering for Gabbard.

Gabbard's teammates made T-shirts on Thursday to "help keep the faith," as they waited for updates on his condition.

"If thoughts and prayers could cure someone," Perham superintendent Tamara Uselman said, "Zach would walk out of here today."

Gabbard collapsed halfway through Thursday night's game against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, and was quickly assisted by Denise Cuchna, a longtime registered nurse and paramedic who was watching the game with her 15-year-old son.

Gabbard was breathing on his own and had a pulse when Cuchna first stepped in to help, but Gabbard's heart eventually stopped.

Cuchna said she pressed the button to shock Gabbard's heart twice before paramedics arrived.

"I think you get into a zone and do what you need to do because you've done it before," Cuchna said.

Gabbard underwent heart surgery at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo on Friday night, and was transported to the University of Minnesota on Sunday evening.

Gabbard remains in critical condition, but posts have said that he is showing response.

A benefit account has been established for Gabbard and his family at United Community Bank in Perham. Stop in for call 218-346-5700 for details on how to make a contribution.

East Otter Tail Focus writers Sam Benshoof and Ashley Bergen, and Fargo Forum Reporters Don Olson and Heath Hotzler contributed to this report.