BEDFORD — A local athlete recently spent five days in the hospital after being diagnosed with a rare medical condition following a three-day hockey tryout.
Now, his mother is speaking out in the hopes of educating other families about the illness, rhabdomyolysis, which nearly sent her son into cardiac arrest.
“My son was about to have a heart attack. They put an EKG on him and his kidneys and liver were shutting down,” said Andrea Esposito.
Her son, Nick Esposito, is a junior at Bedford High School who tried out for the school’s ice hockey team from Nov. 26-28.
Each of the three days the athletes spent time off the ice completing a 45-minute workout similar to cross-fit, and then hit the ice for an additional 50 minutes.
On Nov. 28, Nick struggled to bend his legs and walk, according to his mother.
“He tried to skate and he really just couldn’t skate,” she said. “Boys will be boys and they don’t want to be wimpy. He kept pushing.”
Esposito said Nick spoke with a trainer and a coach about his legs, but she said no one examined his thighs.
“Nick’s thighs were four times the size they usually are,” she said, and he was in extreme pain.
By Friday, the condition worsened and Nick was taken to urgent care where it was discovered that he was suffering from rhabdomyolysis — a condition that ultimately destroys the muscle when muscle tissue breaks down and releases myoglobin, a protein, into the blood that then elevates potassium levels which can cause kidney damage if left untreated.
“His potassium level was off the chart. He was about to have a heart attack,” his mother said.
Nick was admitted to Elliot Hospital in Manchester on Dec. 1 where he remained for five days.
“Not only did he not make the team, he isn’t even on junior varsity. This kid has been skating since he was 10 years old,” she said, raising concerns about how the trainer and coach handled her son’s illness.
Andrea Esposito maintains that the school district was negligent and did not properly take care of Nick, specifically since no one ever looked at his legs.
Mike Fournier, interim superintendent, said he only learned of Nick’s situation when contacted by a reporter. After corresponding with the athletic director and high school principal, Fournier said Nick’s condition and the hockey tryouts were mutually exclusive from each other, stressing the diagnosis and notification of his condition happened after the tryouts were over.
“He was cleared to try out by his physician. We had a medical release for him,” said Fournier, adding Nick is a successful lacrosse player at the high school and has documentation stating that he is in good health.
According to Fournier, Nick did not complain of anything during the tryouts that was any different from the other players, meaning Nick didn’t report any symptoms that the district thought were abnormal.
“What I am sad about and I feel badly for the student is that he has this condition. Of course no parent or student wants to be dealing with this undiagnosed condition,” said Fournier “ … There is not a crystal ball the coaches could have seen any more than the parents.”
Fournier said the district has only been in communication with the boy’s father.
“They never took Nick’s injury seriously,” said Andrea Esposito. “It is sad and it is scary.”
Nick returned to school on Monday, but is still recovering from the illness.
Fifty athletes participated in the hockey tryouts, and 11 players did not make the team.
“The tryouts were not any more rigorous than what would be standard practice,” added Fournier.