Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa paramedics at right place, right time to save collapsed teen

Tampa Fire Rescue’s Mark Wengyn shakes with Drake Williams as Ryan Bradford is thanked by parents Darrell and Monzita. Paramedics were already at Wharton when Drake collapsed.


Tampa Fire Rescue’s Mark Wengyn shakes with Drake Williams as Ryan Bradford is thanked by parents Darrell and Monzita. Paramedics were already at Wharton when Drake collapsed.

TAMPA — In three minutes Saturday, Drake Williams went through a whole lifetime's worth of luck — both good and bad.

The bad: having a rare heart condition that causes "sudden cardiac death."

The good: After he collapsed at basketball practice, everyone around him knew what to do, and two Tampa Fire Rescue paramedics happened to be right outside.

"A miracle," said Dr. James Orlowski, chief of pediatrics at University Community Hospital. "He's a very, very fortunate young man because everything came together like you would hope it would."

Drake, 16, was doing offense-to-defense transition drills with the rest of the Wharton High basketball team Saturday when he pitched forward near mid court.

Drake tried to get up once, then collapsed in a heap.

By the time Wharton coach Tommy Tonelli got to the junior forward's side, Drake's eyes had rolled back and he wasn't breathing.

Tonelli said he started chest compressions, tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and switched back to chest compressions. It wasn't working, so he asked junior Jonathan Torres to take over the CPR while he went to get the gym's automatic external defibrillator.

Meanwhile, a teammate used Tonelli's cell phone to call 911 and to try to call Drake's parents, Darrell and Monzita Williams of New Tampa. Others dashed out of the gym in search of another coach.

In the parking lot, they found Tampa Fire Rescue paramedic Ryan Bradford and firefighter-paramedic Angelo Santos Martinez. They had just come to Wharton High to pick up fire Capt. Rick Chesser, who had dropped off an equipment truck for Badge Bowl VIII, a charity flag football game that would pit Tampa firefighters against police later that day.

Five seconds later and they would have already pulled away, adding minutes to the time it took rescuers to reach Drake.

Instead, they walked in as Tonelli prepared to use the automatic defibrillator. Drake was pale, had no pulse and wasn't breathing. His limbs were limp, and his pupils didn't react.

Within a minute, however, the paramedics had shocked Drake's heart back to life. On the way to the hospital, he talked to rescuers.

"He wanted to get back up and go play basketball," firefighter-emergency medical technician Frank Coto Jr. said.

By Tuesday, Drake welcomed the rescuers who saved his life during a visit in the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit.

"I'm so happy to see that smiling face," driver-engineer Mark Wengyn told Drake.

"I'm glad to be back," Drake said. "Thank you for all that you did."

Orlowski said Drake has an electrical disturbance in his heart that, when stress hormones get too high, triggers the heart to stop pumping blood and start quivering like "a bag of worms."

Doctors plan to implant an internal defibrillator in Drake so that his heart can be jolted back into a regular rhythm if he ever collapses again. His career in contact sports is over, which means that he won't be returning to the football field, where he played tight end and defensive end for Wharton.

Playing basketball "can be" a possibility, Orlowski said, though he didn't say for sure one way or the other.

Orlowski said the timing of Drake's rescue was critical. Waiting minutes for help could have caused him to suffer brain damage or worse.

"If it wasn't for the fact that the coaches started CPR and then EMS was right around the corner," he said, "he would have been one of the bad statistics instead of one of the good ones."

Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403.

Tampa paramedics at right place, right time to save collapsed teen 11/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 11:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.