Posted by: Joe English | March 19, 2008

Racing: Ryan Shay inquiry ends without answers in cause of heart failure

The results in the investigation into Ryan Shay’s death in the US Olympic Marathon Trials were announced yeaterday with no clear answers to be found. Ryan Shay died on November 3rd 2007 in the Trials in New York City.

According to a statement by the New York City’s medical examiner’s office, Ryan Shay died of “cardiac arrhythmia due to cardiac hypertrophy with patchy fibrosis of undetermined etiology.”

“The heartbeat went into an irregular rhythm due to an enlarged heart with old scars,” Ellen Borakove, public affairs director for the office of the chief medical examiner, told the Detroit Free Press in a phone interview. “It’s an unknown source — we’re not able to identify what caused the scarring.

“It’s a natural-cause death.”

“They just don’t know what caused it,” said Joe Shay in the Detroit Free Press. “Fibrosis is scarring of the heart. It could have been from a heart attack. It could have been a virus — he was diagnosed with an enlarged heart at 14, when he had pneumonia. They just don’t know.”

Joe Shay said the toxicology report, the results of which he learned three months ago but couldn’t release, came back “100% clean.”

Sharlene Day, director of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy at University of Michigan Health Systems, said: “That statement alone — cardiac hypertrophy with patchy fibrosis — to me, is HCM. It’s a typical description. Fibrosis is the end stage of a lot of things — muscle cells have died.”

Joe Shay said he had made a request to the New York medical examiner’s office that his son’s heart samples “be archived so that in five or 10 years we might know why” he died. Shay also said the family allowed a genetics expert at Harvard Medical School to study his son’s tissue samples.

“As far as getting the e-mail today, it was a relief that I could finally get the information to the public,” Shay said. “The medical examiner’s office did a wonderful job preparing us for what the results were going to be. Harvard, all the outside cardiac forensic specialists, so many people looked at it. I think all that could have been done, was done.”

Ryan Shay was the first Michigan boy to win four state cross-country titles. He went to Notre Dame and became a nine-time All-America and 2001 NCAA champion in the 10,000 meters. In 2003 he became the youngest U.S. men’s marathon champion in 30 years when he won the title at 23.

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