News – Fennville High Basketball Player Dies After Winning Layup

4 Mar

Fennville, MI

A moment of jubilation for hundreds of Fennville basketball fans turned to horror Thursday night as junior Wes Leonard collapsed on the court after celebrating his team’s dramatic victory and clinching of a perfect season Thursday night.

About two hours later, the 16-year-old Leonard died at 10:40 p.m. at Holland Hospital, said Tim Breed, the hospital’s spokesperson.

Leonard arrived at Holland Hospital in an ambulance at 9:20 p.m. Before the ambulance left the high school, an EMT appeared to hook him to a defibrillator on the court at about 8:48 p.m.

He appeared to lose consciousness after he collapsed. His teammates started shouting for help.

The gym doors were opened, letting cold air in, and about 10 people tending to him fanned his body with everything from a jersey to a clipboard prior to the EMT’s arrival.

“It’s tough to take in,” said Leonard’s teammate Shane Bale, who stood near the gym’s exit doors with a group of others as the ambulance with Leonard remained outside. “It’s like somebody from your family, you know?”

This situation is a heart breaker!  No words can describe the sorrow that surrounds the death of any youth.  It doesn’t make sense; it is not how things are supposed to happen.  I truly feel empathy for this community and for this school.

But, I must point out some big IFs that if true show a complete lack of leadership from the school’s administration.  All of these ifs are based on this article from the Holland Sentinel newspaper.  I am fully aware that news reports, especially written just 2 hours after an incident, aren’t always accurate.  So basing my ifs off a news report is shaky.

It appears that there was no AED, no athletic trainer, no EMT, no nurse or no physician at the game.  Not only that, but it also appears that not a single person in the gym that night attempted CPR.  By the report in the newspaper, the emergency management that took place was to open the gym doors to allow cool air in and to fan his body.  It seems that whoever made the decision was thinking the athlete was suffering from heat stroke.  It will be very interesting to read the autopsy report and determine what the cause of death was.  It will be a very sad case if the athlete died of a heart condition and that access to adequate emergency medical care could have saved his life.

With all these ifs, it must be pointed out that even with the highest level of professional care not every life can be saved.  This blog has several reports of  referees who were resuscitated after a near fatal heart attack and also sad reports of athletes who died even with access to an AED, an athletic trainer and a nurse.  EMTs, ATs, nurses, MDs and paramedics with an AED arriving on the scene within seconds of a collapse still may not resuscitate  a victim in many situations.  So access to these professionals doesn’t automatically mean that the life will be saved.

But the point is that we will never know what could have happened with this particular situation because by this report there was no emergency professionals in place at this game.  To me, this is unacceptable.

So what should school administration provide to see that this situation is managed correctly?

  1. Access to an AED within 2 minutes AND trained responders to apply the AED.  You must have both.  An AED is useless until it is applies correctly to a victiom.
  2. Emergency trained health care professional.  For athletics, the best professional to hire is an athletic trainer to be at every event and every practice.  Anything less is just that, less.  Every athletic department in this country should provide access to an athletic trainer!
  3. CPR training for coaches.  CPR is a 3 hour course now.  There is absolutely no excuse to train your coaches in CPR on a continuing basis.  It isn’t expensive and doesn’t take long.
  4. Deveop an Emergency Action Plan – athletic administrators must see to it that every coach knows what to do in an emergency.  In schools with an AT, the AT usually takes care of developing this plan.  A failure to plan is a plan to fail.

I sincerely hope that the reports are wrong and that more was correctly done to save this young athletes life.  I hope the ifs that I wrote earlier are later found out to be wrong and that an AED was applied early and that CPR was performed by trained personnel seconds after his collapse.  I further hope that every school in this country has performed all 4 of my points written above.

One Response to “News – Fennville High Basketball Player Dies After Winning Layup”

  1. Paul LaDuke, ATC March 5, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    The autopsy report is out and the cause of Leonard’s death was cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart. I wonder if effective CPR with immediate access to an AED would have saved this young man’s life. We will never know.

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