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Amari Mendez | November 22, 2011

"The day started just like any other day," remembers Amari Mendez, 16.

"I got up, the sky was still dark, and I started getting ready for school. I ate breakfast, kissed my mom good-bye and walked out the door. That is the last thing I remember." 

Though Amari has no recollection of it, she moved on to her school located in Park Slope, Brooklyn, attended classes, and suited up to practice with the basketball team, of which she was a star member. "From what I was told, it was a particularly rigorous practice," said Rosalia Aponte, Amari's mother. "Apparently Amari mentioned that she was feeling dizzy-unusually so. Other people could tell something wasn't right with Amari-she couldn't pass the ball; it was like her body had forgotten how to do it. The coach knew Amari and could see that something was wrong. She was concerned enough to call an ambulance.

"My husband, Sergio, and I were in the car when we got the call. The coach called me
from the ambulance, telling me that they were taking Amari to New York Methodist Hospital.

We headed to NYM, but I wasn't too worried-she has always played sports and has been to the Emergency Department plenty of times. A dislocated jaw here, a broken bone there. I've raised six children; it takes a lot to faze me.

It was only when she got the call from Anthony Saleh, M.D, who was with Amari in NYM's Pediatric Emergency Department, that she realized just how dire her situation was. "He told me her condition was deteriorating quickly and he needed my permission to treat her immediately. 'Of course,' I told him. 'Do what needs to be done!'" Now Ms. Aponte was worried. "All the way to the Hospital, I remembered how she had kissed me good-bye that morning. Her hair was still wet. It was two days before Thanksgiving-it was cold out. I didn't want her to get sick. Driving to the Hospital, I could still feel her kiss on my cheek.

"When we arrived, we were met by Dr. Saleh, and when I saw that a social worker and a chaplain were with him, my heart sank into my chest. I will never forget the words he said to us, 'There is an extreme possibility that Amari will not make it through the night.'" Rosalia and Sergio were incredulous. How could a healthy, vibrant, 16-year-old girl, whom they had just seen a few hours earlier now be on the brink of death? Dr. Saleh explained,

"Amari has experienced sudden cardiac arrest, but we are going to do everything we can to save her life."

More about Emergency Services at NYM.

Read the whole story in its original form, and more, in NYM's Annual Report to the Community 2011-2012.

Day One. 3pm. Pediatric Emergency Room.