O’Maury Chambers never got to play his first game with the West Charlotte Hornets youth football league. His coach, TJ Mungo, shared on social media how the little boy will always be remembered as a part of the team.
O’Maury collapsed and died at his first practice Thursday afternoon on the field at Thomasboro Elementary in west Charlotte. Since then, the Hornets dedicated their first game to him on Saturday, and other teams are showing their support.
Every parent just wants their kid to play safe. They worry about bumps and bruises.
In this case, the exercise itself was too much for O’Maury’s heart.
O’Maury was too young for the free screenings, and the condition would not be detected with a regular physical exam.
The Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner calls the condition an “anomalous origin of the left coronary artery.” In short, a cardiac birth defect.
It’s a rare condition, affecting less than two children for every 1,000 children born.
“It’s not usually diagnosed unless people have symptoms with it,” said Dr. J. Rene Herlong, chief of Pediatric Oncology at the Sanger Heart and Vascular Institute and Levine Children’s Hospital with Carolinas Healthcare System.
Herlong said symptoms, if the are present, would include shortness of breath, fainting, chest pain or palpitations – all during exercise.
“I think what parents can do is pay attention to the symptoms their child might have during exercise,” Herlong said. He added that the child’s physician should be notified.
Sometimes there are no symptoms, he said, and the first knowledge of the condition comes with a traumatic heart event like O’Maury’s.
O’Maury’s history isn’t known, but other congenital heart defects have killed several student athletes in the area over the years. Often they are older.
It’s why Carolinas Healthcare System sponsors a special day across several counties called “Heart of a Champion.” CHS provides free heart screenings for teen student athletes every spring. Thousands of students are screened every year. Hundreds have received further treatment.
O’Maury was too young for the free screenings. Herlong says the condition would not be detected with a regular physical exam.
He emphasized that people working with young athletes need to be trained in CPR and know where to find defibrillators to jump start the heart. Herlong said those life-saving tools can make a difference in certain situations.
Tuesday evening, hundreds filled Marshall Park in uptown for a candlelight vigil in memory of O’Maury.
Most of the people who attended were children, decked out in tiny football jerseys and cleats, trying to cope with the loss of their teammate and friend.
“O’Maury did something that hasn’t been done ever. He brought all of the organizations together as one,” Mungo said.
O’Maury’s funeral will take place Thursday.
WBTV is an Observer news partner.