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Albany athlete cleared to return to play basketball months after cardiac arrest on court

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) – A 17-year-old Westover High School teen is thanking those around him for saving his life.

James Fudge went into sudden cardiac arrest while playing in a Fall League Basketball Tournament in August. On Friday, Dec. 8, he was finally cleared to resume physical activity.

It’s a miracle story that many believe is a testament to the power of prayer. Fudge has a new appreciation of just how precious life is and how fragile it can be.

“We got the ball back on defense, and I’m wide open and ready to score, but then everything started to get lightheaded and black. And next thing you know I’m passed out. I woke up with people all around me. But now, I feel good. I was thinking positively during the whole rehab, and I’m just glad I have people in my life to help me with that,” Fudge said.

Those in the gym say although there was dead silence, they could hear prayers for James. That’s when James’ mother realized what happened to her son.

“When I looked up and I realized it was James, I initially was like he must have fallen or maybe tripped coming down from a rebound, but then I realized he was just too still,” Andrea Towns-Byrd, James’ mother, said.

“At first, I just thought maybe he was just cramping up, you know something he’d jump up from. I gave it about two or three seconds and kind of saw how his body was just tight and locked, and I was like ‘Nah it’s something serious’,” Terrence Noel, one of Westover’s assistant basketball coaches, said.

Sudden cardiac arrest is the sudden loss of all heart activity due to an irregular heart rhythm. If not treated immediately, it can be deadly.

“His official diagnosis is sudden cardiac death with successful resuscitation,” Towns-Byrd said.

“In the moment, you don’t really realize. Six minutes feels like an hour. He was down for a while. We did chest compressions for maybe three minutes. Ee did CPR for maybe three minutes, and then the AED got to us and then we shocked him,” Noel said.

“I was just scared. I kind of sat down on the floor and I just started praying, ‘cause you know that was just my first thought,” Aden Reese, James’ teammate, said.

“I started praying anytime someone gets hurt, and when I saw it was serious, I just started praying more and more, I was kind of concerned and really scared though,” Jalen Holmes, another teammate, said.

“That was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen; to see people come together as one. You know it was different teams in the gym, and so just to see people come together and start praying and really being all in for James was very special,” Marcus Ware, one of Westover’s assistant basketball coaches, said.

“Finding out on later from the other doctors, that this could’ve been somewhere else – if he was on the playing ground or even just walking. They did not know about the fluid over his heart, so it could’ve happened anywhere. It just shows you that God puts people in places, and I honestly believe he puts especially my assistant coaches. The way they were acting and the way they responded to that situation,” Westover Boy’s Basketball Head Coach Dalis Smith said.

Now, James is cleared to resume physical activity. His coaches say they’ll start him off easy with layups this upcoming season.

“He’s a very healthy kid, I just would’ve never thought that would’ve happened,” Jaxson Reese, a teammate, said.

“I’m less worried than I was before, not knowing if he was going to make it or come back and play with us,” Greg Williams, another teammate, said.

“I’m very happy that I got cleared and can continue to do what I love,” Fudge said.

And his teammates are leaving him with a sweet message.

“We love James and hope he can get back on the court soon,” Reese said.

“We love you Fudgey!” Holmes said.

Albany athlete cleared to return to play basketball months after cardiac arrest on court
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