Local News

Community college basketball player died of heart condition

Posted April 30, 2010 9:23 a.m. EDT
Updated April 30, 2010 6:58 p.m. EDT

— A Vance-Granville Community College basketball player who collapsed during a game in February died of a rare heart condition that is one of the leading causes of death for student-athletes in the U.S., according to an autopsy report released Friday.

The autopsy results show that sophomore Raymond Dunn died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It is a hereditary condition in which the heart muscles thicken, making it difficult for them to pump blood.

Dunn collapsed while playing about 1½ hours into a home game in Henderson on Feb. 21. He died at Maria Parham Medical Center.

"It was the worst feeling ever," said Niles Forsythe, who was Dunn's teammate in college and high school. "I don't wish that on anybody, just seeing your best friend like that, and there's nothing you can do."

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most frequent cardiovascular cause of sudden death in young athletes, according to the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. Still, the disease is uncommon; it appears in about one of 200,000 athletes.

"We don't see it very often. You may go many, many years without a case showing up," said Dr. Glenn Charlton, medical director of the emergency department at Maria Parham.

The condition is usually detected through an electrocardiogram or MRI but can be hard to diagnose. There is no clear symptom that is unique to it, and some symptoms – shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitation and light-headedness – are often not recognized by patients, according to the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association.

"Not everyone who has the gene for it actually has the disease," Charlton said.

Dunn had recently undergone a cardiac evaluation that did not result in any specific findings, according to the autopsy report.

A 6-foot-4 inch, 190-pound forward from Henderson, he was being recruited by four-year colleges, V-GCC President Randy Parker said. In the month before his death, he had three double doubles and hit a career-high 52 points and 30 rebounds in a game.

Dunn played high school basketball for Norlina Christian School and Northern Vance High School. He led Norlina to a conference championship in 2008.

"He practiced hard, and he made the games look easy. It was just one of those things that I admired about Raymond," Forsythe said.

Forsythe remembered the day in high when they met. "We just hit it off as friends," he said. "The first day I met him was like, 'What's up? My name is Niles.' 'My name is Raymond.'"

Forsythe said he had never heard of the disease that killed his friend, but his new goal is to make sure everyone knows about it.

"I could educate people about this – about my friend Raymond," he said.