Eighteen-year-old Cartier Woods passed away on February 6. The senior student at Detroit Northwestern in Detroit, went on life support on January 31st after suffering cardiac arrest while playing basketball. His family and friends held a vigil for him and struggle to accept how a healthy and strong teenager could suffer a cardiac incident. “He was a very good person,” said his aunt, Dwanda Woods. “He’d give anybody anything if he had it.”

“He collapsed right next to me”

“It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness that we share that Cartier Woods has passed,” said the Detroit Public Schools Community District in a statement. “His aunt made the decision to remove him from life support after vital signs continued to be absent. The DPSCD community is heartbroken by this sudden and untimely loss. We deeply thank everyone who has provided their prayers and well wishes…” [1]

Woods’ cardiac arrest happened during a basketball game against Fredrick Douglass Academy. “He collapsed right next to me,” said Khanye Howard, Woods’ childhood friend and teammate. “I thought he was having a seizure, I was really shocked, I didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t getting up so it kind of started taking a toll on me; I started crying. I just couldn’t watch it. I ended up having to leave the gym.” [2]

Three minutes after the game began, Woods told his coach, George Tyson, he felt dizzy before collapsing. Tyson performed CPR, and others were preparing an automated external defibrillator when the paramedics arrived and rushed to Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital.

Howard visited his friend every day until he passed away. “He was just a sweet soul, very respectful to our teachers. He was my best friend, my right-hand man,” he said. “We did everything together.” The two had met when they were 14 and 13 while they lived in the same apartment complex and they played sports together.

The school district officials held an assembly to honor Howard and inform the students about resources like grief counseling available to them during this time. And during the basketball game against Southeastern High School, Howard wore Woods’ No. 4 basketball jersey to commemorate his friend.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Children and Young Adults

Sadly, this kind of tragedy happens. “Unfortunately, many of these events are sudden but not infrequent,” said Dr. Nasser Lakkis, Chief of Cardiology at DMC Harper Hospital. “The athlete may complain a few minutes to several minutes before the event of chest pain or exhaustion or dizziness, lightheadedness, or feeling unwell. And I think these signs should be taken seriously.” He explained that an enlarged heart could trigger this event. “One has to think of anomalous origins of the coronary artery; sometimes they come in from the wrong places they get compressed, especially when an athlete is exerting him or herself, then that would actually lead to no blood flow to that segment of the heart that can lead into an arrhythmia too.” [3]

This tragedy is reminiscent of Damar Hamlin’s experience. Last month, the 24-year-old Buffalo Bills player survived sudden cardiac arrest during a football game. It’s not entirely clear what caused this event, but it was a starting warning to other young adults. Every year, over two thousand children and teenagers died from sudden cardiac arrest in the U.S. “Everyone’s at some potential risk,” said Dr. Gul H. Dadlani, division chief of cardiology at Nemours Children’s Health in Florida. “The same thing could happen to a high school student or the non-athlete who’s just at home.” [4]

For most cases, sudden cardiac death in people under the age of 35 is because of a genetic congenital condition, which may have gone undiagnosed. One common cause is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart condition where some of the muscles become enlarged. This makes pumping blood more difficult, which strains the heart and lungs and causes atypical heart rhythms.

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