Her vital signs gone, Emilia Alvarado was once on the other side of life.
Alvarado, a sophomore bowler at Miami’s Ferguson High School, suffered a heart attack last year and was in a coma for three days. When she came to, she said she had seen visions of a dead relative.
“I lost vitals for eight minutes,” said Alvarado, 15. “I was completely dead. A miracle happened, and I came back.”
Her ordeal began on March 23, 2014, when she fainted in her family’s living room. Her father, who was a doctor in his native El Salvador, administered CPR while paramedics were called.
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At Miami Children’s Hospital, doctors discovered she had a previously undetected congenital heart defect —Ebstein’s anomaly — and a coma was induced.
When she awakened, her parents — Mario and Liset — didn’t know what to expect. Because of the lack of oxygen during the time she was unconscious, there was the possibility she would have lost brain function.
But that was not the case at all.
“She recognized us and was clear in her thoughts,” Mario said in Spanish.
Mario, now a pastor in West Kendall, is convinced his daughter had crossed over to the other side, albeit briefly.
“She told us she had seen her grandmother,” Mario said. “She said she saw a park, full of flowers, and an ocean colored with an intense blue.
“This is something we understand from the spiritual world. We are just grateful God returned her to us.”
Alvarado has made the most of her second chance at life.
She wears a defibrillator and is not allowed to engage in rigorous physical activity, but bowling, a sport she fell in love with at age 11, is perfect for her. She is one of seven starters on a Braddock team that coach Marcela Del Rosario believes is the best in Miami Dade County.
“We have seven kids who average 120 or above,” Del Rosario said. “[Alvarado] brings her strong spirit to the team. Bowling has become an outlet for her. She carries the heart of the team with her perseverance.”
Alvarado, who plans on becoming a surgeon one day, likes the strategy and mental challenge of bowling.
Better yet, Alvarado said her doctors gave her a clean bill of health last month and set her next checkup for July 2016.
“Babies with Ebstein’s anomaly normally don’t live past eight months,” Alvarado said. “To be as healthy as I am now is amazing.”
Aug. 24-Oct. 24: Regular season.
Sept. 25: Youth Fair Invitational.
Oct. 20: GMAC tournament.
Oct. 26-27: District playoffs.
Nov. 4-5: State tournament at Boardwalk Bowl in Orlando.
DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS
Apopka (boys); Titusville (girls).
Since the tournament began in 2003, only one Dade or Broward program — South Dade’s girls in that first year — has won a state bowling team title. Last year, Coral Springs Charter’s boys reached the third round at state — the deepest advance of any team in Broward or Dade.
Boys’ season outlooks
American: Coach: Sam Ghadebo; Last year: 7-0; Top bowlers: Trace Reid (so.); Jonathan Araujo (sr.); Orlando Perez (sr.); Noteworthy: Reid qualified for state last year.
Archbishop McCarthy: Coach: Chris Covone; Last year: 3-6; Top bowlers: Juan Abreu-Melon (jr.); Noteworthy: Abreu-Melon had a high game of 214 last year, but four top bowlers graduated.
Belen: Coach: Jorge L. Martinez; Last year: 5-4; Top bowlers: Jacob Wutzler (fr.); Michael Ahearn (jr.); Noteworthy: Wutzler rolled a high game of 174 in last year’s district playoffs.
Braddock: Coach: Jorge Sosa; Last year: 4-7; Top bowlers: Gabriel Pineda (jr.); Eric Garcia (so.); Jonathan Flores (jr.); Noteworthy: The team struggled to field a full roster last year.
Coral Gables: Coach: Stephen Campagna; Last year: 7-3; Top bowlers: Matthew Monjarrez (sr.); Rafael Gonzalez (sr.); Jose Rojas (jr.); Noteworthy: Gables has four third-year bowlers.
Coral Springs Charter: Coach: Nelson Martin Jr.; Last year: 11-1; Top bowlers: Ryan Hernandez (jr.); Joseph Galang (fr.); Jacob Austin (so.); Noteworthy: CSC seeking its third straight district title.
Miami Christian: Coach: Amado Yaniz; Last year: 15-0; Top bowlers: Cody Stevens (fr.); Ricardo Mesa (jr.); Daniel Cortes (jr.); Noteworthy: Team seeks third straight district title.
Terra: Coach: Ed Garland; Last year: 10-0; Top bowlers: Kevin Morrissey (sr.); Chris Bacallao (sr.); Giancarlo Caro (12); Noteworthy: Morrissey made All-Dade last year.
Girls’ season outlooks
Archbishop McCarthy: Coach: Chris Covone; Last year: 4-4; Top bowlers: Sarah Martin (jr.); Alejandra Chavez (jr.); Noteworthy: Martin is a three-year starter, and Chavez is was a state qualifier last season.
Braddock: Coach: Sebastian Verger; Last year: 6-3; Top bowlers: Lacey Simpson (sr.); Eileen Garcia (jr.); Scarlett Garcia (sr.); Noteworthy: Team has solid depth.
Coral Springs Charter: Coach: Nelson Martin Jr.; Last year: 10-2; Top bowlers: Harmony Romano (fr.); Crystal Singh (so.); Julia Galang (fr.); Noteworthy: Singh is a big addition to the two-time defending district champs.
Ferguson: Coach: Marcel Del Rosario; Last year: 10-1; Top bowlers: Angela Chapman (jr.); Melissa Perez (sr.); Vanessa Perez (jr.); Noteworthy: Vanessa Perez had a high game of 234.
Terra: Coach: Ed Garland: Last year: 10-0; Top bowlers: Jessica Junco (jr.); Kyannah Diaz (jr.); Noteworthy: Coach expects rebuilding year after losing two All-Dade bowlers.