Dwayne Mitchell, a teenager who fell into cardiac arrest and then into a coma last May, died Friday. He was the son of two Miami Beach Police officers.
Dwayne had been a senior at G. Holmes Braddock High School in West Kendall approaching graduation. In May 2015, he was at his house in Southwest Miami-Dade with his family when he started coughing loudly. Shortly after, his heart stopped beating. His older brother found him unresponsive in the guest room and did CPR while paramedics were on their way.
On the way to the hospital, the 18-year-old athlete — a wide receiver before a leg injury slowed him down — went into cardiac arrest for about 20 minutes. His brain swelled.
He remained in a coma at Promise Hospital in Miami Lakes, a long-term acute-care center that opened in May. Machines helped him breathe most of the day. Mitchell had contracted a viral infection, and tests revealed he had a rare heart condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which had gone undetected.
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“I am amazed how this young man has been in a bed since May, unable to communicate and has touched lives all over the world,” said Jorge Alessandri, a Miami Beach police officer and close family friend. “God has absolutely had his hand on this.”
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is a rare condition that can be detected through an electrocardiogram (EKG).
But an EKG, a simple, fast and painless test of the electrical activity of the heart, is not a recommended automatic test for the estimated 10 million or so high school and college age athletes, like Dwayne, who undergo physicals before playing in team sports.
Those who oppose mandatory screenings, like the American Heart Association, cite the cost for such a program, said to be about $2 billion per year to start up, and the potential for false readings that can lead to unnecessary testing and anxiety.
On Friday, the police department tweeted its condolences to detectives Christopher and Shantell Mitchell over the death of their 19-year-old son.
Mitchell’s parents started the Dwayne Have a Heart foundation to spread awareness about the condition. The family also launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for Dwayne’s medical mounting medical bills. They have collected more than $46,000.
Joey Flechas and Howard Cohen contributed to this report.