Carmyne Paschall Payton was a sophomore at Copiague High School and collapsed while running laps.
“The Walter G. O’Connell Copiague High School has experienced the death of a student that has affected us deeply,” Principal Joseph Agosta said in a letter to families. “The Walter G. O’Connell Copiague High faculty and staff express our condolences to the family and friends of this student and pledge to provide the support and counseling necessary to help them through this difficult time.”
Payton’s mother, Tiffany Wofford, tells Eyewitness News she received a phone call and raced to the school, and she was watching as responders tried to resuscitate her son.
“He never woke up,” she said through tears. “He never woke up.”
Wofford, still in absolute shock over what happened to her son, said the basketball team was something that had become a recent passion for him.
“And he’s like, ‘Mom, I made the cut! I’m so excited,'” she said.
She said she initially figured her son had broken a wrist or something, never suspecting it would be so much worse.
“I wasn’t going there expecting to see that,” she said. “I just want to know what happened. I just want to know if the autopsy can tell me something.”
Doctors say about 90% of issues like this in high school sports can be picked up by simple electrocardiograms.
Dr. Sean Levchuck at St. Francis Hospital actually does them for free on adolescents in a monthly program, along with echocardiograms.
But whatever happened at Copiague raises the question, should a basic cardiac exam be required for high school sports?
“There is a yin and a yang in the medical profession between the people that would like to do this and the insurance providers that say, ‘Yeah you could do it, but it’s coming out of your pocket,'” he said. “So it gets to be a very contentious thing.”
As for Carmyne, Wofford says he was cleared in August at a basic physical and in good overall health.
Now, the family is dealing with a loss too much to bear. Carmyne has one older brother and three younger sisters.
“Anything I asked, he was like, ‘OK mom, OK mom, OK mom,'” Wofford said. “I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to do without him.”
A team of counselors, psychologists, and social workers will be available at the school.
“As a school staff, we encourage you to listen carefully to your child, answer questions openly and honestly if they occur, and let your child know that even adults do not have all of the answers to the questions they may have,” Agosta wrote. “Accepting your child’s feelings and validating these feelings will be beneficial. During the weeks and months ahead, confusing feelings may surface periodically. It may be helpful for your child to discuss these feelings openly with an adult.”
For more information on screenings offered at Pediatric Cardiology of Long Island, CLICK HERE, and please call your closest office for details on possible free adolescent screenings.
St. Francis Hospital conducts free cardiac screenings for student athletes grades 9-12, including an EKG and echocardiogram before meeting with Dr. Levchuck.
Advanced registration is required, and parents must attend. Contact St. Francis Hospital’s Community Outreach Department at 516-629-2013, or CLICK HERE for more information.