La Center teen 'very critical' after collapse

Doctors unsure what triggered heart issues at basketball practice

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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photoCody Sherrell

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One moment Cody Sherrell was full of life, participating in his school basketball team’s first practice. A few seconds later, without warning, his heart stopped.

Sherrell, 14, remained in “very critical condition” early Wednesday afternoon, said Dr. Mark Banks of Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel in Portland. Doctors remain unsure what caused the boy, who had no prior history of heart disease, to suddenly collapse, Banks added. Such incidents can strike at random, the doctor said.

Banks described Sherrell’s prognosis for recovery as “very guarded.” Doctors at Randall Children’s Hospital placed the boy under therapeutic hypothermia, using a cooling blanket to reduce his body temperature to around 90 to 93 degrees. He will remain in that state for 48 hours to protect his brain.

“We feel fortunate he’s still with us, and are hopeful that he can recover from this,” Banks said in an afternoon press conference at Randall Children’s Hospital.

Sherrell, an eighth-grader, was participating in a basketball practice at La Center Middle School when he was stricken. CPR administered by coach Tom Rice likely prevented Sherrell from dying in the gym, Banks said.

The 40 or so participants in Tuesday’s practice received counseling at school Wednesday. They later returned to the court for a modified shootaround designed to “keep the kids moving and engaged,” Superintendent Mark Mansell said.

The day after Sherrell’s collapse was anything but normal at the middle school, Mansell said during an interview inside the school district office’s conference room. Grief counselors had appeared on La Center school campuses before, but never for an event like this, he noted.

Mansell described the mood in a staff meeting he attended Wednesday morning as “very somber.” Staff were concerned and heavy-hearted, he said.

Sherrell’s family reported to doctors that he had not been ill over the holidays. Coaches told Mansell that he exhibited no signs anything was wrong during the practice. He sat down during a break toward the end of the practice and fell over. No one saw him collapse, Banks said.

Doctors have not yet determined the reason for Sherrell’s heart problems, Banks said. The teen may have suffered from a cardiac arrhythmia, the doctor added, but that is not certain. His family will be tested for signs of underlying heart problems that might otherwise go undetected.

The teen passed his sports physical and he reportedly had no prior existing medical conditions, Mansell said. The school district follows Washington Interscholastic Activities Association guidelines, which do not require an EKG exam, Mansell noted.

Sherrell was breathing when Rice started administering CPR but “faded away,” Mansell said. Clark County Fire & Rescue responded to the middle school just before 5 p.m. Firefighters began administering CPR and took the boy to Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, La Center Police Chief Tim Hopkin said.

When school officials called 911, they were instructed not to use the school’s automated external defibrillator (AED) on the teen. When emergency personnel arrived, they used an AED.

“He was very fortunate to receive excellent CPR at the scene from bystanders and EMS,” Banks said.

Sherrell’s heartbeat remained irregular for an hour at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center. His condition was stabilized before he was transported to Randall later in the evening.

Sherrell has not undergone surgery, Banks said. He is being treated with medication.

Sherrell’s neighbors on West B Avenue in La Center reacted with shock upon learning he was the student who had collapsed. They said they heard about a boy collapsing at the middle school, but did not know it was their neighbor.

Mansell visited with the family at Legacy Salmon Creek on Tuesday night. The boy’s parents were visibly shaken, he said. They approached Mansell and asked him to ensure their son’s teammates and fellow students were supported. They are “very unselfish people,” he said.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Mansell said. “Our La Center family is very close. A tremendous number of our staff are deeply affected by this.”

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.facebook.com/raylegend; www.twitter.com/col_smallcities; ray.legendre@columbian.com.