Boy who collapsed at OC school had heart condition

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — A 14-year-old boy who died after collapsing during football practice at an Orange County school had a heart condition but it wasn’t considered life-threatening.

Mitchell Cook of Anaheim collapsed Wednesday following warm-ups for freshman football practice at Canyon High School. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The teen walked up to his coach and then laid down, his father, Jim Cook of Anaheim, told the Orange County Register ( ).

“Once his heart stopped, there was just no getting it back,” Cook said.

The boy had a mitral valve prolapse that prevented one of his heart valves from sealing tightly. However, the Mayo Clinic says the condition usually doesn’t require any lifestyle changes, the newspaper said.

Mitchell made regular doctor visits and there had been no signs of trouble, his father said.

An autopsy was planned to determine the cause of his death.

The 5-foot 9-inch blond youngster hoped to play defense with his team, the Comanches. “He was going to be a great football player,” his father said. “He’s the one who wants to tackle somebody.”

On Thursday, teammates, parents and coaches stopped by a memorial along the fence of the football practice field. Alongside Mitchell’s helmet and cleats were his skateboard and video game controller. Mourners left flowers, balloons and signs.

Anthony Marquez left white roses with a note that read: “You’re in a better place.”

Gary Dreyer, 14, had known Mitchell since preschool.

“I wish I would have spent more time with him,” he said. “He was a great friend. If someone was bullying me or something, he would back me up. I could always count on him.”

A candlelight vigil at the field was planned for Saturday night.

Football practices at all levels were cancelled indefinitely.

“Our focus is on doing everything we can do to help and support the family,” head football coach Jim Kunau said. “I haven’t even thought about when we would resume practicing.”

Jim Cook said Mitchell and his 16-year-old brother, who also plays football at the school, were among five children abandoned by their methamphetamine-addicted mother in Riverside. Cook adopted the boys when they were 4 and 6 years old.

Cook said they visited Rome and cruised the Mediterranean. On a recent trip to Lake Havasu, Mitchell jumped off a 30-foot rock into the water. “He had no fear,” Cook said.

“I would never have guessed it would end like this,” Cook said. “We did see a lot in his few, brief years on the planet.”


Information from: The Orange County Register,

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