Gomes getting to the heart of the matter
April 25, 2008, New Haven Register
The heart of Trish Myers was touched when she learned last week that a portable defibrillator will be awarded to a school/athletic venue of her choice in memory of her late son Stanley Myers, the former star at Wilbur Cross High.
Stanley Myers passed away from sudden cardiac arrest in May of 2005 while jogging near Morgan State University in Baltimore.
"Right after Stanley had passed away, I had talked to Wayne Simone and he brought up the suggestion (of donating a defibrillator in Stanley's name)," said the mother of the 2003 Register Player of the Year. "I thought it was a great idea. But that was almost three years ago. And he just called me about a week ago. I was very excited to know that I'm not the only one still thinking about my son and that he has a legacy of people who really care about him."
It took three years to put the idea in motion, but the first Ryan Gomes "Hoops for Heart Health" Golf Outing will take place June 17 at the Southington Country Club. Also, a dinner will be held at the Aqua Turf in Southington the night before the golf tournament to help raise money and awareness of the need for defibrillators " prices of which can range into the thousands of dollars " in every school and local athletic club to help save lives.
Gomes, the former Wilby High of Waterbury star, now a starting forward with the Minnesota Timberwolves (following a trade from the Boston Celtics) has taken the immediate treatment of sudden cardiac arrest to heart through his Hoops for Heart Health foundation. He helped generate money for about a dozen defibrillators in the Minneapolis area during the past season and now he will host an annual golf event in his home state to further spread the word.
"The golf tournament is just to remind people what Hoops for Heart Health is all about," said Gomes, who became friends with Myers through Simone, a longtime AAU coach in Connecticut. "I don't know where it will take us five, 10 years from now, but the ultimate goal is to put defibrillators in as many (athletic venues) as we can."
Simone, one of the organizers of the event, said he and Gomes are currently in the process of lining up sports celebrities from the NBA and major college coaches to appear at the event. Florida coach Billy Donovan has already committed as a headliner at the dinner.
"I think it's very important that every place that has sports should have a defibrillator because I would never want another parent to experience what I experienced," said Trish Myers. "I know that if there was a defibrillator on the grounds where he was at, that his life could have been saved. So I'm very excited (at what Gomes is doing)."
The New Haven high schools and Farnham House have defibrillators, thanks to the efforts of Norman Bender, who donated defibrillators to Cross and Farnham House and helped generate money from the city to donate the apparatus to Hillhouse, Hyde and Career.
Reggie Lewis, the former Boston Celtics star who played for Jim Calhoun at Northeastern University, and Hank Gathers, of Loyola Marymount, are probably the two most famous players who died from sudden cardiac arrest. But this under-publicized and tragic affliction kills thousands of otherwise healthy young people every year.
On Wednesday, a 19-year-old member of the Alabama State University basketball team, Deshean Porchea, died suddenly while playing a pickup basketball game at the campus gym.
"Absolutely no one saw this coming " there were no signs," said Alabama State president Joe Lee. "This was a kid who was in the best shape of his life. There was no reason for this."
There rarely is, but a portable defibrillator can save lives if it can be used on the athlete within minutes of sudden cardiac arrest.
In a 2005 New Haven Register story on sudden cardiac arrest, shortly after the death of both Myers and 13-year-old Eboni Johnson McCotter of New Haven, Dr. Stuart Zarich, the chief of cardiology at Bridgeport Hospital, said that "if you can defibrillate within four minutes, the person will probably recover. But you must have the equipment, you have to be on the ball and you have to get the heart beating within four minutes. That's a lot harder than it seems."
It starts with awareness and having access to a defibrillator. That's where Ryan Gomes comes in.
"We're small fish in a big pond right now with this," said Gomes. "But with the help of "Parent Heart Watch" and "Cardiac Science" to help this grow, we're just blessed to be able to spread the word out there even more."
Bank of America is a major underwriter of the golf tournament and dinner.
"(Sudden cardiac arrest) not only can end a career, but there are stories of it happening to kids, six, seven, eight years of age," said Gomes. "Some schools do have a defibrillator, but it might be in the nurses' office, and if something happens, who's to say that somebody has the key to the nurses' office? So we're trying to put them in gymnasiums, because that's where activities are being played indoors."
Gomes said that he wanted to bring that message home.
"I wanted to have a tournament in Connecticut because this is my home, this is where I grew up and this is where the people are in place who have helped me with Hoops for Heart Health," he said.
For information on the golf tournament or to make a donation, call (860) 567-7724 or go online at hoopsforhearthealth.org.
Dave Solomon, the Register sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com.