LaPorte teen Jake West collapsed on field, later died of enlarged heart

LaPorte High School football player Jake West collapsed and died during practice. (Jake West)
September 26, 2013 8:42:51 PM PDT
Jake West, a 17-year-old LaPorte High School student, collapsed during football practice and later died on Wednesday.

West was a junior at LaPorte High School. He played linebacker for the football team.

On Thursday afternoon, the area coroner said that Jake West died of right ventricular cardiomyopathy, also known as an enlarged heart.

West was rushed to Indiana Health LaPorte Hospital just past 5 p.m., where briefly he regained a pulse and the ability to breathe, but he didn't make it. LaPorte High School students remembered Jake on Thursday as an upbeat and friendly face around campus.

"He's always pushing you hard to try to do your hardest. He's never negative about anything. He would help you with anything you needed," Will Smith, West's best friend, said.

While all LaPorte students undergo a physical, this high school did not require special testing for athletes that might uncover abnormalities that have led to similar untimely deaths.

Cardiologist Joseph Marek heads a nonprofit that offers $15 electrocardiogram tests to schools that have identified athletes at risk.

"These deaths occur over 3,000 times a year in this country and these are usually in young adults who are felt to be healthy and fit, and even the healthiest because most of them are athletes," said Joseph Marek, M.D., Young Hearts for Life. "Statistically, over 60% of these young adults could have been detected with an EKG before catastrophe occurs."

The superintendent says it's not clear whether such a test may have prevented the death of Jake West. For now he's focused on his students, and a family in mourning.

"Go home and hug that child today, tell them how much you love them, tell them how much you care for them because life is so short and none of us know how long we have," said Rande Thorpe, superintendent, LaPorte County School District.

A celebration of life for Jake West will be held Sunday at the Kiwanis Field at LaPorte High School.

For more information on Young Hearts for Life, visit: http://www.yh4l.org/.


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