Inquest jury records verdict of death by natural causes
A 20-year-old Bodden Town soccer player who collapsed and died on the pitch during a training session suffered from complications caused by a massively enlarged heart, a coroner’s jury heard.
At first, teammates thought Gerome Graham, known as “Bird”, was joking when he fell to the ground during a light skills session at the club last June.
He was renowned as one of the fittest players on the team and had no known history of illness or injury, according to statements read during an inquest on Wednesday. But he suffered from an unknown heart condition that led to his death, the jury was told.
Gerome’s brother and fellow player Kareem James described how fellow players frantically tried to revive him.
Kareem, who had played alongside his brother for Bodden Town for 13 years, said they had attended practice as normal at 7pm on the evening of June 12.
“We started off with some very light ball work and he just collapsed. “At first we thought he was just playing around but then one of the guys said, ‘he’s not moving’.
“One of the players, Rohan, started CPR and then the police came and took over.”
In a statement, read to the jury by Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervick, he said he had travelled with his brother to Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town in an ambulance. Doctors tried to revive Gerome, but he was pronounced dead shortly afterward.
The jury recorded a verdict of death by natural causes after hearing evidence from Dr. Shravana Jyoti that Gerome had a seriously enlarged heart.
The pathologist said this was the leading cause of sudden death among young, competitive athletes.
He said it was a defect that Gerome would have had since birth, but typically only becomes apparent after 14 years of age, if at all.
The condition is known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle. He said vigorous activity, like soccer, could trigger a cardiac event.
Citing several international studies, in a report shown to the jury, Dr. Jyoti, said the first indication of the disease, in many cases, was after death.
He drew attention to a study from the Medical Journal of Australia, explaining the syndrome.
“The single most common disorder causing sudden death in people aged less than 35 is generally an inherited cardiac disorder, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This means the heart muscle is abnormally thickened. It is believed to occur in almost 1 in 500 people, with most affected individuals having few or no symptoms.
“Death occurs when the heart beats too fast and is unable to pump blood adequately around the body. A substantial portion of patients with HCM die during or immediately after vigorous activity, but sudden death during rest or sleep is also common.”
Toxicology tests showed Gerome had no drugs in his system and an insignificant amount of alcohol.
The report, which summarised the circumstance surrounding the death, said Gerome had spent the afternoon watching European soccer on television with his club coach Elbert McLean and had later moved on to a liquor store in Bodden Town and drank a single bottle of Stout.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy – Facts
Condition affecting the heart muscle
Symptoms include an unusually enlarged heart
Occurs in about 1 in 500 people
Leading cause of sudden death in young athletes
Genetic condition that sufferers are born with
Death can occur when the heart beats too fast during vigorous activity
Can be diagnosed through echocardiogram screening tests