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School community mourns LaPorte High School football player

Jake West | Phoprovided

Jake West | Photo provided

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Updated: October 28, 2013 7:27AM



LAPORTE — A high school football player who collapsed during practice died from an undiagnosed heart condition, LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan said Thursday.

Jake West, 17, a junior linebacker for the Slicers, suffered right ventricular cardiomyopathy, Sullivan said after a forensic autopsy at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka.

“It’s a thinning of the right ventricular wall, and as that muscle thins, it turns to fat, and that fat cannot push the blood out of the heart,” Sullivan said.

The condition led to sudden cardiac arrest, which is how paramedics found West when they responded to a 911 call Wednesday afternoon at Kiwanis Field, where West was running laps in his football gear.

LaPorte Fire and EMS arrived after receiving the call at 5:11 p.m. and found West unresponsive and unconscious. LaPorte High School staff members were performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation when paramedics arrived, Sullivan said. The first responders shocked West three times with a defibrillator and transported him to IU Health LaPorte Hospital, where the medical staff undertook extensive resuscitation efforts, Sullivan said. West died at 6:38 p.m.

“They tried. They worked on him for a long time,” Sullivan said.

Extensive medical testing would have been required to find West’s heart condition, Sullivan said, “and on a 17-year-old with no prior symptoms, you just don’t do that. It was just a terrible tragedy.”

Counselors and local ministers gathered at LaPorte High School on Thursday morning to help students deal with the death. Rande Thorp, interim superintendent at LaPorte, said students were instructed by the principal to go to the auditorium if they felt like they needed to talk to a counselor.

Thorp called West a popular student who also participated in track and lacrosse.

“This is a tremendous loss for our students and community,” he said. “We want our students to come together at this time.”

Athletic director Ed Gilliland said the game between Merrillville and LaPorte, set for 7 p.m. Friday at Merrillville, will go on as scheduled. Gilliland said the team plans to honor West by wearing two stickers on their helmets — one with his initials and another with his number, 26.

A service for West will be held at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Kiwanis Field with internment at Swan Lake Memorial Gardens in Michigan City. The service is open to the public.

Memorial contributions may be made to the LaPorte High School Lacrosse Club, in care of Cathy Dawson, 3722 S. Wayne Drive, LaPorte IN 46350. Essling Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

This story was written by Post-Tribune staff writer Mike Hutton and correspondent Amy Lavalley.



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