Zaharius’ Story

Zaharius on the court

The last thing Zaharius remembers is dunking the basketball. The star athlete friends and family call ‘Z’ collapsed in the locker room at the start of halftime. Shaw High School athletic trainer David Silverstein and the head basketball coach, Marvin Rashad, performed CPR until East Cleveland paramedics arrived. Ten minutes later Z’s mom, Nasheema Anderson, watched as UH Rainbow’s Emergency Medicine team worked to save her son’s life. The last time Mrs. Anderson was at UH was 17 years ago, when Z was born.

“The staff was absolutely amazing. They were tending to Z, but also to me,” says Mrs. Anderson. “They made a point to keep me informed and provided comfort during the scariest moment of my life. When I entered the pediatric intensive care unit, a doctor greeted me and said, ‘We are going to take good care of your son.’ I hope they know how much that meant to us.”

Z suffered a heart attack caused by an anomalous coronary artery, a congenital heart defect. It is the second most common congenital cause of sudden cardiac death among young athletes. Z wears a life vest and takes a beta-blocker medication to help prevent another sudden cardiac arrest. He will undergo open-heart surgery in the near future to correct the defect found on his heart.

Katherine Slain, DO, the pediatric intensive care physician who cared for Z in UH Rainbow’s Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit, credits the quick action of Z’s teammates, coach and trainer for saving his life. “Prompt recognition of a cardiac arrest, initiation of CPR, and application of an AED are absolutely critical for the survival of such an episode,” says Dr. Slain.