When Morris Knolls sophomore Brandon Hurt stepped to the free throw line on Jan. 3, he was expecting to just shoot free throws. Instead, he went into sudden cardiac arrest and collapsed on the court.
Morris Knolls was playing at Hanover Park, and Hurt, playing in his first season with the Golden Eagles after transfering from St. Benedict’s, collapsed only 2 1/2 minutes into the game.
Hanover Park athletic trainer Joe Frasciella and the police office on site, Mariusz Zamojski, immediately jumped into action giving Hurt mouth-to-mouth. Frasciella, who originally thought that Hurt was having a seizure, explained that it took him about 30 seconds to realize that Hurt wasn’t breathing and had no pulse. Frasciella then ran for the automated external defibrillator (AED), which was used to restart Hurt’s heart.
“It took one shock and he came to, after the shock it brought his pulse back and brought him back to life, but it took another solid 10 to 12 minutes to kind of really bring him back to where he could squeeze my fingers and feel sensation and talk to me,” said Frasciella, who’s been an athletic trainer for over two years.
“The really amazing thing is once we got him on the stretcher and before he left in the ambulance he wanted to get up, he wanted to move around, he wanted to get back in the game and obviously we didn’t let him out of precaution, but it was unreal,” said Frasciella. “He was dead for about 45 seconds and within 15 minutes he wanted to get up and move around. It was something you prepare for as an athletic trainer but you never think it will happen.”
Hurt was taken to Morristown Medical Center and then transferred to Columbia Hospital, where he had surgery to insert a defibrillator into his chest. Doctors are still working on trying to figure out what caused the cardiac arrest, and Hurt will have to undergo more tests this summer. Until then, he has had to step away from a sport that he’s played since the second grade.
“I’m feeling good, getting back to normal,” Hurt said. “I do think about it a lot but everyone is helping me through it, my family and friends, my doctors and coaches, everyone is helping me get through it a little bit.”
Hurt is officially out for the rest of the season and he is allowed to shoot around for fun, but he’s not allowed to competitively play basketball in part because of the defibrillator in his chest, and also because no one wants the same thing to happen to him again.
“It’s hard because usually in my free time everything is basketball, but I’m getting into some new things,” Hurt said. “Playing basketball again is something I’m looking forward to, but whatever they say, I’ll go with it.”
According to Morris Knolls coach Ken Ferrare, the team has dedicated the season to Hurt, who shows up to games and the occasional practice. Ferrare said it was Hurt that helped the team get back on the court a couple of days after his incident. The Golden Eagles had a game against Randolph on Jan. 5, and after a meeting with the team that Sunday, Ferrare said his players weren’t sure they wanted to play.
“That Sunday we met as a team and talked about the situation and we knew we didn’t want to play the game, which was Monday. I went and saw him in the hospital and I said we’re thinking of not playing and he said, ‘Why, that doesn’t make any sense,'” Ferrare said. “He and his mother were like, ‘Play the game, get back into a routine and play the game.’ And I was able to go back to the team and say he wants us to play, let’s get back into it. I guess for awhile there that day and the next day, basketball wasn’t on anybody’s mind and it was him that refocused everybody.”
Since that day, Hurt has met Zamojski, the police officer who helped to save his life, and he’s been in contact with Frasciella.
“I was very grateful that they were there and they did everything on me,” Hurt said of the two men. “If they didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be here.”
“I’m eternally grateful for their quick response and knowledge of what to do,” Aretha Hurt said. “When they said he had no pulse there was no hesitation to get the (AED); I thank them every time I see them.”
Since his incident, Hurt is taking things one day at a time as he recovers and adapts to life without basketball. But he knows he’s extremely lucky and is grateful that he’s still around.
“Just be grateful and really enjoy the small things because something like that could happen,” Hurt said of the lesson this experience taught him. “Just enjoy the people around you because something like that could happen and you could be gone.”
Staff Writer Lauren Knego: 973-428-6674; firstname.lastname@example.org