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9th Grader in Gwinnette County, GA Dies in Weight Room

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Janet McClure Single mother to two amazing kids. James is 13 and has HCM. Emily is 11 and recovering from TBI. Find out more about Janet McClure
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  • 9th Grader in Gwinnette County, GA Dies in Weight Room

    This young man died a couple of days ago. I had taken James (diagnosed in January, and ICD implanted in April) to the pediatrician on Tuesday. He was aware of this young man's death and new of course of James' diagnosis. He had all the doctors in the practice to come in and listen to James' heart and put their hand on his chest to feel the way the heart beats differently in this disease. He was telling them that it is so suttle that doctors miss it all the time. Most of the doctors there had never heard the murmur or diagnosed this disease in any patients. He was telling them that missing this diagnosis could cost someone their life. Their practice does tons of school physicals. This young man that died had had two phyciscal and it was missed. I told James that he could very well contribute to saving someones life by allowing those doctors to listen to his heart and feel his chest. I am just so thankful we know about James and he can't end up an article in the newspaper!

    Gwinnett athlete's autopsy inconclusive
    By D. AILEEN DODD
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
    Published on: 04/27/05
    Alma Howard reluctantly gave in to her son's desire to play football for Central Gwinnett High School. He was her "gentle giant," a smiling heavyweight who stood over 6 feet tall, and she didn't want to see him get hurt.

    When Jermaine started to train with the Central Gwinnett team in January, she prayed for him.


    Family photos
    (ENLARGE)
    Jermaine Howard, 15, seemed healthy and was excelling on the football team.

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    "I was like, 'Oh Lord, please don't let anybody hurt my baby. Watch over my baby,' " Howard said as she sank into a couch in her Lawrenceville home on Tuesday.

    The 15-year-old — who seemed healthy and had rarely been sick, his parents said — passed two physicals earlier this year.

    But Monday, the freshman collapsed in the school's weight room after a session of conditioning drills. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at Gwinnett Medical Center a short time later.

    An autopsy Tuesday did not determine immediately the cause of the teen's death, said Ray Rawlins, an investigator with the Gwinnett County medical examiner's office.

    Officials with the medical examiner's office believe Jermaine may have had a problem with his heart, even though he showed no symptoms before his death, Rawlins said.

    "Does his death appear to be from a cardiac event? Yes," Rawlins said. "There was no prior history of a heart problem. You don't see anything with the naked eye."

    Dr. Robert Campbell, chief medical officer at the Sibley Heart Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, said it's not unusual for heart abnormalities to go undiagnosed in children or teens or to occur without prior symptoms. "Forty to 50 percent of the children who die [from sudden cardiac deaths] will not have had any preceding warning signs," Campbell said.

    Secretaries and members of the school's Touchdown Club brought a hot meal to the family Tuesday while they fielded calls from relatives, friends and school officials. Funeral arrangements had not been made Tuesday.

    In the short time that Jermaine had been working out with the football team, he drew notice from coaches and other players. The 240-pound student had begun to trim the fat from his diet at home and sculpt his body.

    "He was happy all the time, no matter how hard it got," said Javis Williams, a freshman football player.

    Central Gwinnett head football coach Bradley Warren had noticed Jermaine's tenacity. Jermaine didn't know it yet, but he had earned a spot on the junior varsity team as an offensive lineman, the coach said.

    "He was going to be No. 73," Warren said. "He was building self-esteem. He was seeing some progress. It was discouraging seeing him taken like that."

    Central Gwinnett's school day began with sniffles and a moment of silence for Jermaine. More than a dozen school counselors assembled to console sobbing teenagers who took classes with the freshman or just knew him from the hallways. Sixty students asked to see counselors, school officials said.

    "Our hearts are just so broken," said principal Valerie Clark, who wrote a letter to parents about Jermaine's death.

    "Our students today wrote notes to the parents. We are bringing those to [his] mom.
    My son James, Age 18, diagnosed in January, 05. AICD - 4/5/05 at Tufts NEMC. Myectomy -1/25/06 at NEMC. Currently having heart failure issues. James' father and uncle both have HCM and AICDs. James dad, Carlton, had Myectomy at Cleveland on 4/10/06. James Medtronic recalled lead fractured 5/26/11. Had Biventricular Cardiac Resynchronization AICD put in on 6/3/11 Emory Midtown.

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