|Timberwolves forward Ryan Gomes takes special cause to heart|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 17 January 2008 18:17|
They have been told that a Minnesota Timberwolves player is on his way to give some pointers, and 6-foot-8 forward Ryan Gomes is swarmed when he walks through the door.
These kids aren't shy, immediately peppering him with questions.
``Are you an All-Star?''
``Not yet,'' Gomes says.
``Where's your jersey?''
``I left it in the locker room, it's too cold outside,'' he says with a chuckle.
``Why'd y'all trade Kevin Garnett?''
And Gomes thought the media were tough.
He patiently answers, or sometimes sidesteps, the barrage of questions because Gomes wants to earn their undivided attention. He has come for more than just a basketball clinic. He has come to deliver something that one day might save the life of one of these kids.
Gomes has partnered with Parent Heart Watch and Cardiac Science to donate automated external defibrillators to schools and rec centers in 12 NBA cities this year. He hopes to hit the remaining 18 cities next season en route to one day having the devices in most school gyms and rec centers in the country.
His motivation is simple. Growing up, Gomes played AAU ball for coach Wayne Simone in Connecticut. While Gomes was in college at Providence, another player from Connecticut - Stanley Myers of New Haven - collapsed and died while working out ahead of a season at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
When Gomes heard the news, he teamed up with Simone to form Hoops for Heart Health, a nonprofit organization that helps to educate and address sudden cardiac arrest.
``It came about in the wrong way, with someone passing,'' Gomes said. ``But we're trying to raise awareness to other people who don't know how important AEDs are and how helpful they are if someone goes into SCA. That's my goal, just to spread the word.''
Unfortunately, what happened to Myers is more common than many people realize.
More than 325,000 people die each year from sudden cardiac arrest, including over 7,000 children, according to the American Heart Association.
Many of those who die, especially young people, show no signs or symptoms of heart problems before they hit the ground.
That was the case for Rachel Moyer's son, Greg. Seven years ago, Greg Moyer was a sophomore on his varsity basketball team and had just finished playing the first half of a game when he glanced up at his mother as he went into the locker room for halftime.
Moments later, team officials came out to tell Rachel there was something wrong with Greg. Rachel entered the locker room to see her son on the floor unconscious.
``I grabbed his head and said, 'Greg, what's the matter?''' Rachel Moyer said. ``He opened his eyes and opened his mouth and nothing came out.''
There was no defibrillator at the school and it took 45 minutes before a second ambulance arrived at the scene with one. By that time it was too late.
The game was on a local television station, so the Moyers have a video of the last moments of their son's life.
``I've watched it 100 times thinking, 'I'm his mother. There should have been signs that I noticed,''' Rachel Moyer said. ``There were no symptoms. No shortness of breath, nothing. He was fine.''
Like Gomes, Moyer immediately began trying to do something about it. She co-founded Parent Heart Watch, a group that has worked to make defibrillators more available, especially in schools and rec centers.
Gomes joined forces with Moyer in July, and she has already seen the benefit of having a professional athlete on board.
``Ryan has given us national attention,'' Moyer said. ``He's someone who really isn't in it for personal gain. It's pretty awesome.''
The cachet that Gomes carries as an NBA player is never more evident than in this rec center gym in hardscrabble North Minneapolis. In a matter of seconds, Gomes has turned what was a cauldron of youthful energy filled with bouncing balls and yapping mouths into a quiet, attentive seminar.
All 30 youngsters are sitting quietly on the bleachers under a basket, listening to Gomes speak about SCA and seeing him donate a defibrillator to parks director Paul Jaeger.
It's a special gift for Jaeger and Farview. Five years ago, a man at the center collapsed and died from SCA during an open gym.
``He was dropping back on defense right over there and he collapsed,'' Jaeger said. ``They started doing CPR and called EMS. By the time they arrived, he had passed away. To have a defibrillator on hand to prevent a future tragedy like that is wonderful.''
That's what Gomes likes to hear.
``I don't know if, because of where I'm at, the same words that they're saying might get across a little different, just because some people are excited to see professional players,'' Gomes said. ``But they're listening and know what's going on.''
That's a start.
``I meet with him and I talk with him,'' Moyer said of Gomes. ``And I just know we're going to be good. We're going to get things done.''