The frantic call underscored the grave emergency:
“Listen… listen to me,” a distraught man tells a 911 operator. “Now call an ambulance.”
“Okay, sir, we’re going to send help,” the operator replied. “Don’t hang up, sir, don’t hang up.”
Bronny James, the 18-year-old son of NBA legend LeBron James, suffered a cardiac arrest during basketball practice. The incoming freshman on the University of Southern California basketball team was hospitalized Monday, his family had said.
He has since been discharged from Cedars-Sinai Medical, the Los Angeles hospital said Thursday.
“While his work-up will be ongoing, we are hopeful for his continued progress and are encouraged by his response, resilience and his family and community support,” said Dr. Merije Chukumerije, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai.
Chukumerije complimented the “quick and effective response” of USC’s athletic medical staff.
“He arrived fully conscious, neurologically intact and stable at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center,” Chukumerije said Thursday.
CNN obtained the 911 call after a request for public records, and the Los Angeles Fire Department redacted a significant portion of the call, they said, in compliance with California disclosure laws.
The operator asks if there is “a doctor on site” or a registered nurse and the caller says there is no doctor.
CNN has not been able to independently verify whether any medical personnel were on site out of sight of the caller.
Typically, an athletic trainer would attend a collegiate practice. According to the NCAA, “All athletic trainers, team physicians, and strength and conditioning coaches have received training/certification in CPR and the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs).”
On Thursday, LeBron James tweeted for the first time since the practice incident over his son, thanking well-wishers for sending his family “love and prayers”.
“We feel you and I am so grateful. Everyone is doing great,” the Lakers star wrote. “We have our family together, safe and sound, and we feel your love. We’ll have more to say when we’re ready, but I wanted to tell everyone how much your support has meant to all of us! #JamesGang”
Cardiac arrest occurs when electrical disturbances cause the heart to suddenly stop beating. It can be fatal if not treated immediately, but can be reversed by CPR and a defibrillator, according to the American Heart Association.
The fact that Bronny James was released so soon was a very favorable development, said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta Thursday.
“He’s probably wearing a monitor to check his heart rhythm while at home to see if there are any abnormalities,” Gupta said. “But so far it sounds like there’s nothing serious they’ve found and they feel comfortable releasing him.”
Sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes is rare but not unheard of. A 2011 study examining the sudden death of NCAA students and athletes between 2004 and 2008 found that sudden cardiovascular death was the leading cause of death in 45 cases, or about 9 per year.
Dr. However, Jonathan Drezner, who specializes in sports cardiology at the University of Washington Medical Center, told CNN that James “represents the highest risk group for athletes” for sudden cardiac arrest. Drezner’s research shows that black male NCAA athletes who play Division I basketball have a 1 in 2,000 chance of suffering sudden cardiac arrest each year. According to his research, the risk in a white male Division I basketball player is 1 in 5,000.
“Adolescent male basketball players and male college basketball players, for reasons we don’t fully understand, are by far our highest risk group of athletes for sudden cardiac arrest,” Drezner said. “In my opinion, they should all be screened with more robust and intensive cardiac screening than is normally the case.”
According to a source familiar with the case, Bronny James underwent a heart exam several months ago as part of a program for future NBA players. The screening included a transthoracic echocardiogram, which looks at blood flow through the heart and heart valves, and an EKG, a recording of the heart’s electrical activity, the source said. Both screenings came back with normal results.
The 6-foot-3 combo guard graduated this spring from Sierra Canyon High School in Los Angeles, where he averaged 14.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 steals his senior year . He was rated a four-star recruit and he stood out in March’s McDonald’s All-American Game, which featured some of the best basketball players in the country.
Experts say it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what James’ recovery will look like until more is known about the cause of his cardiac arrest and his specific health condition. But the fact that he was treated immediately and is already out of the intensive care unit bodes well for his recovery, Drezner said.