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'He just stopped breathing'


WALTHAM, Mass. -- Reggie Lewis spent the minutes before his fatal cardiac arrest doing some of his favorite things: shooting hoops, joking with passers-by, slapping high-fives with young fans.

"He seemed really happy," said Amir Weiss, a Brandeis student who had been shooting baskets on the court next to Lewis.

Then, suddenly, almost silently, Lewis began to lose his breath. Slumping to the floor of Brandeis University's Shapiro Gymnasium, he appeared stunned for a minute or so, but then he started to gasp repeatedly, more weakly with each try, until he fell limp, according to Weiss and other witnesses.

"All of a sudden he just stopped breathing," said Weiss, 20, a Brandeis junior. "He never made another sound."

It was about 5:05 p.m. As a friend who had been chasing balls for Lewis propped him up, a student member of the Brandeis medical corps, a young woman whom authorities would not identify, checked his pulse. There seemed to be none, Weiss said.

"That's when we all really got alarmed," he said. "He was just laying there, like a mannequin on the floor."

Lewis, 27, who had been sharing the gym for at least an hour with Brandeis students and some girls who strayed upstairs from a basketball camp in the Red Auerbach Gymnasium below, had spent the entire time casually shooting, mostly three-pointers, and had not broken a sweat, witnesses said.

Now, he lay motionless in the arms of the student medical technician and his unidentified companion. "It looked bad," said Dan Royzman, 21, a junior at Brandeis.

A Brandeis police officer arrived moments later.

"He laid him on the floor and tried to wake him up," Weiss said. "The officer was slapping his face and saying things like, 'C'mon, get up, get up.' But he didn't move."

A second Brandeis officer arrived and attempted CPR.

"Nothing seemed to have changed," Weiss said. "He wasn't moving, and he had no control over his muscles. His head was slumped to the side and his arms were limp next to him."

Several more minutes passed before an ambulance crew arrived and began to administer electric shock to Lewis' chest and performed CPR. They continued the procedures for nearly 15 minutes. Then, about 25 minutes after Lewis collapsed, the crew took him from the gym on a stretcher and placed him in the ambulance and transported him to Waltham-Weston Hospital in Waltham, said Joseph C. McDonald Jr., Brandeis' director of public safety.

"We did the best we could, given the circumstances," McDonald said. "The best we could see, there was no delay in getting him immediate emergency medical care."

Hugh Lacy, who coaches at the girls basketball camp, talked to Lewis yesterday morning.

"He said things were great," Lacy said. "He said he was in good shape and there was nothing wrong."

Deo Djossou, who plays basketball for Northeastern University, arrived just before Lewis was placed in the ambulance.

"I saw him over the weekend, and he said he was ready to start working out," Djossou said. "We were waiting on him, but we weren't eager to begin this year because we knew his condition."


Reggie Lewis' career statistics:


Year ... School ..... Min. ... Reb. ... Pts.

83-84 .. N'eastern .. 32.3 ... 6.2 .... 17.8

84-85 .. N'eastern .. 34.9 ... 7.8 .... 24.1

85-86 .. N'eastern .. 37.3 ... 9.3 .... 23.8

86-87 .. N'eastern .. 33.0 ... 8.5 .... 23.3

Totals.. ......... .. 34.3 ... 7.9 .... 22.2

Professional Year .... Team ... Min. ... Reb. ... Ast. ... Pts.

87-88 ... Bos. ... 8.3 .... 1.3 .... 0.5 ..... 4.5

88-89 ... Bos. .. 32.8 .... 4.7 .... 2.7 .... 18.5

89-90 ... Bos. .. 31.9 .... 4.4 .... 2.8 .... 17.0

90-91 ... Bos. .. 36.4 .... 5.2 .... 2.5 .... 18.7

91-92 ... Bos. .. 37.4 .... 4.8 .... 2.3 .... 20.8

92-93 ... Bos. .. 39.3 .... 4.3 .... 3.7 .... 20.8

Totals... .... .. 32.6 .... 4.3 .... 2.6 .... 17.6

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