Eight youth basketball teams competed in the DomHeart21 Classic “Ballin’ to Protect Young Hearts” Basketball Tournament last Saturday at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in East Elmhurst. Both the boys’ and the girls’ division winners received a trophy and an automatic external defibrillator, plus learned how to use it to save lives.
The tournament’s purpose is to raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrest in youth, in memory of Dominic A. Murray, a McClancy alum. He had been an apparently healthy Farmingdale State College student when he collapsed and died on the basketball court on Oct. 5, 2009, of SCA.
“It’s not rare,” said Melinda Murray, Dominic’s mother and the founder of the Dominic A. Murray Memorial Foundation, Inc. “SCA can happen any time without warning, and you should be able to immediately jump in.”
Murray is making it her life’s mission to prevent other families from losing a child to the lack of awareness, screening and immediate treatment of SCA. In addition to the tournament, the foundation provides free risk-factor screening clinics for youth aged 12 to 24, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and AED training and advocates for SCA awareness.
In SCA, the heart stops beating because its electrical system malfunctions. It is different from a myocardial infarction, or heart attack, which happens when blood flow to part of the heart is blocked and tissue dies, although a heart attack can lead to SCA.
People of any age, gender or race can suffer from the condition, including those who have absolutely no symptoms.
Dominic had an undiagnosed congenital heart defect but had been cleared to play sports under existing medical standards. Those standards didn’t, and still don’t, detect life-threatening heart defects that can lead to SCA.
The foundation’s clinical process for young athletes includes pediatric cardiologists who use detailed screening tests, including EKGs and, for some, echocardiograms, to identify those at risk and offer referrals.
The Shooting Stars won the girls’ division over the Elmont Cardinals, Lady Bulldogs and Positive Direction. The NYC Warriors won the boys’ division over the Hollywood Hustlers, Elmont Cardinals and St. Joseph.
Before taking to the floor on Saturday, every competitor and coach was taught what SCA is, the American Heart Association’s “hands-only” CPR technique and how to use an AED.
Hands-only allows rescuers to use chest compressions, without artificial respiration, to circulate the victim’s already-oxygenated blood throughout the body and increase the chances of survival.
Some would-be rescuers worry about being exposed to HIV, tuberculosis and other serious diseases through the mouth of a victim, so the hands-only technique increases the chances that a potential rescuer will act. Loved ones are encouraged to use artificial respiration.
Prior events have already led to the saving of several lives. One 11-year-old girl rescued a 4-year-old drowning victim the day after her training, according to foundation board members at the tournament.
Steve Tannenbaum is a survivor of an SCA attack he suffered during a softball game. He marked five years of survival on May 6. He now serves as legal counsel for the foundation and helped with CPR instruction at the tournament.
More than 400,000 people die from SCA every day, more than one every two minutes, Tannenbaum said. The foundation would like all youth athletic medical screenings to follow the detailed process it uses.
The foundation’s screenings usually include about 250 to 300 athletes, and about seven are referred for further evaluation, he said. The extra EKG and other screening tests cost extra money, but save lives.
“That’s the difference between a funeral and a wedding,” Tannenbaum said.