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Always A Defenseman: Teen’s Unexpected Death Inspires Heart Health In North Texas Youth

Always a defenseman: Teen’s unexpected death inspires heart health in North Texas youth

Ethan May's sister, Riley, drops the puck during a pre-game ceremony on Saturday. LIZ MCGATHEY / staff photo

Saturday afternoon, the North Texas hockey community gathered at the Dr Pepper StarCenter in McKinney. Before the competition, the Dallas Penguins of Plano and the McKinney North Stars came together in remembrance of their friend, Ethan May.

Last year at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Ethan died of SADS, or sudden arrhythmic death syndrome. The heart condition caused Ethan’s heart to skip and he died at the age of 15.

The condition happens unexpectedly, and this reality has been hard for Paige May, Ethan’s mother, to accept.

Some days are better than others. Some days are harder, especially for Ethan’s young friends, boys and girls who never saw it coming. They’re just looking for some way to connect with him, Paige said.

Some remember him with a T-shirt that shows his hockey number, 13. Some remember him though social media. Many of his friends still leave comments on his Instagram account. There’s only one photo, but it has over 500 comments where his friends still reach out, some as recent as last week.

The tree at Daffron Elementary School is where Paige and Ethan’s sister, Riley, go to be with him. They planted the Red Oak last year on Ethan’s birthday, Dec. 9. Back then, it looked like “Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree,” Paige said jokingly.

Today, even with its skinny branches, she said the tree is thriving. It’s doubled in size over the past few months, and it’s become a frequent friend on low days. There are black strings tied to many of the branches, where friends left notes. Paige collects most of them for safekeeping.

“My brain knows he’s gone, but my heart doesn’t,” Paige said. “He was our satellite.”

“Ethan was the kind of kid who would gladly take a bullet for his friends. He was always that way,” she said “He was a natural defenseman on his hockey team.”

It’s hard to move forward when you lose someone you love, but even in his death, Ethan is still defending and protecting his loved ones.

Last year, when Ethan was initially admitted to the hospital, doctors did a heart scan that showed Ethan had an unknown heart condition.

The scan was incorrect, but when rumors spread about Ethan’s sudden death, families surrounding the Mays rushed to get their children’s hearts examined.

Paige said parents arrived in droves to Baylor Heart Health Clinic and Legacy Heart Clinic for the exams. “They were so inundated,” she said “that they had to refer even to downtown [Dallas].”

Several of Ethan’s teammates and many in the North Texas hockey community also got their hearts screened, which “everybody felt strongly about doing,” said John Guerrieri, team manager for Ethan’s team, the McKinney North Stars.

“Ethan was vibrant and full of life. Extremely athletic. He was the model of what you would think of as an athlete. So if something like that can happen to him, obviously, we wanted to make sure everybody got screened,” he said. “If this can happen to Ethan, this can happen to anybody.”

The day after Ethan’s funeral, Paige said she got a call from a nurse at Baylor Health Clinic who wanted to know what caused the new influx of heart exams. On the phone, the woman said, “I wanted to let you know that you saved three child’s lives.”

One of which was Ethan’s teammate Peyton Chappa, who discovered he had a hole in his heart. He’s still healthy and playing today. He also wore a shirt to remember Ethan Saturday, along with hundreds of others.

“Hockey’s a family, so when we lost Ethan in June, it was extremely difficult on the boys. And to be honest, I don’t know if any of us were ready to honor Ethan the way that he deserved at the beginning of the year,” he said. “I think there was still a lot of mourning that was going on.”

He said the boys needed to mourn his loss so they could properly celebrate his life. So Saturday at the McKinney home rink, the North Texas hockey community came together to celebrate Ethan’s life and his legacy.

Several of Ethan’s friends play for the McKinney North Stars or the Dallas Penguins of Plano, so on the last weekend of the season, several of Ethan’s friends and opponents reunited in his honor.

The Mays have connected with Journey of Hope, a grief counseling nonprofit in Plano, to help them navigate these uncharted waters. Whether it’s Instagram, a T-shirt or a tree, Ethan is gone but not forgotten.

Story Credit: http://starlocalmedia.com/planocourier/always-a-defenseman-teen-s-unexpected-death-inspires-heart-health/article_e602de6e-fadc-11e6-8403-eb9089999d62.html