October 24, 2011, my twenty-year-old son, Joseph Ciancola, a healthy, athletic young man with no prior health conditions collapsed on a New England college campus athletic field during a baseball strength and conditioning practice. He was a pitcher, and this was the initial day of training. From what I know of the event, he ran 2.1 miles to the football stadium where he did 15 minutes of bleachers then ran another 2.1 miles and dropped to do a 1-mile army crawl with the team down a gulley and back up. During this rigorous strength and conditioning workout, Joseph fell to his knees and told the strength and conditioning coach that something was wrong, and he didn’t feel right. Joseph tried to get up but began crawling in the wrong direction and then collapsed. During this time a player ran over to Joey and saw that he was foaming at the mouth and struggling. Joey opened his eyes for a final time, rolled over, turned to his teammates, and said, “finish without me boys”. He obviously knew something was terribly wrong.
My son was ultimately taken to a local county hospital geographically closer to the university but once there, the decision was made to transport him to Rhode Island Hospital as they were equipped with a trauma unit. By this time, and before any real emergency treatment, his core body temperature was 106, he became afflicted with rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of muscle fibers that leads to kidney failure) and DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation). By the time he arrived he was in multi organ failure.
Over the next three days Joey was resuscitated four times, required 394 units of blood product due to disseminated intravascular coagulation and bleeding, had compartmental syndrome with fasciotomy, laparotomy, and right lung removal. This horrific chain of events provides you with a description of the pain that my young healthy son endured.
October 25, 2011
He had Rhabdomyolysis, severe DIC and was in liver failure. By that evening he was in kidney failure. The doctors tried three different dialysis machines, each one failed as Rhabdomyolysis and DIC set in and the muscle tissue was clogging the machine.
October 26th, 2011
Joseph coded and was resuscitated, which took them 8 minutes. Soon after, he squeezed his coach’s hand as he prayed to him.
October 27th, 2011
The family was gathered and told that Joseph had compartmental syndrome and his muscles needed to be debrided. He had only a 50 percent chance of surviving this procedure but without it he would certainly die. His 195 lb. body now weighed 312 lbs., due to bladder pressures and abdominal compartmental syndrome. He required a fasciotomy of both arms and legs and his abdomen. This also led to a laparotomy and right lung removal. He was resuscitated three times during this procedure as I stood by his bedside. After almost three hours in surgery his pulmonary artery ruptured, and the trauma team couldn’t stop the bleeding. He lost his battle and died in my arms at 5:25 pm.