HS basketball player dies days after collapsing

A Chicago mother makes a difficult decision after her son collapsed on a basketball court over the weekend and that mom is hoping what happens next could save lives. (WLS)
May 7, 2014 7:33:12 AM PDT
A Chicago teenager who collapsed last weekend during a basketball tournament has died.

Jermaine Cullum was a sophomore at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep High School. The 16-year-old was playing in a basketball tournament at Riverside Brookfield High School when he collapsed on the court after a layup.

Cullum was assisted by a doctor and nurse who were in the stands at the time. They performed CPR until paramedics arrived.

The teen was then taken to Loyola Medical Center in Maywood. He was pronounced dead Tuesday. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday to determine the cause of death.

Surrounded by family, Tarcia Patton hadn't left Loyola University Medical Center since her son Jermaine was rushed to the hospital last weekend.

While Patton arrived hopeful, reality then set in. She made the difficult decision to take Jermaine off life support.

"It was so hard, I couldn't think right, I just wanted him to get up, I just knew he wasn't going to get up," she said.

Doctors told Patton that Jermaine had lost all brain activity and he could not breathe on his own. Jermaine collapsed after going into cardiac arrest. Patton says her son had an unexplained, rare heart condition that no one knew about until it was too late. The CPR by the doctor and nurse at the game helped the teenager regain a pulse, something his mother said she is grateful for.

"If they did not do what they did at the basketball court, I wouldn't be able to say goodbye to my son," Patton said. "He would have passed away on that court."

And now Patton wants to give back by donating Jermaine's heart to Loyola for research, not only to find answers about her son, but for others.

"I made the decision because I know his condition is rare," she said. "I want to help other kids out there that might have the same rare disease he might have with his heart."

"Anytime anything happens that is inexplicable, we have to have the opportunity to pursue tissue diagnosis we learn something," said Dr. Jeffrey Winterfield, Loyola University Medical Center.

Dr. Winterfield and Patton also encourage high school athletes to get thorough physical exams from their pediatricians. Winterfield says if there are any red flags, he recommends taking the screening one step further with an electrocardiogram. Right now, there is no nationwide mandatory screening program for high school athletes.

Jermaine's mother has set up a GoFundMe.com account to help pay for his funeral.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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