Autopsy: Late Drive player to blame for CPR delay


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The autopsy report for Zeke Upshaw indicates that the now-deceased Grand Rapids Drive basketball player’s actions are the reason he wasn’t provided CPR immediately after he collapsed during a game.

Upshaw, 26, died two days after the March 24 collapse in the final seconds of a game at the DeltaPlex Arena in Walker. His family Wednesday filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NBA, the DeltaPlex, Drive owner SSJ Group and the Detroit Pistons Basketball Company.

The lawsuit argues the defendants failed Upshaw by not initiating lifesaving efforts including defibrillation and CPR immediately after his collapse. Videos of the incident show him lying face down on the court for at least three minutes as staff tending to him work to determine what to do. Paramedics eventually placed him on a stretcher and removed him from the facility. CPR was initiated on the way to the hospital, sources told 24 Hour News 8 the night of the incident.

Upshaw’s autopsy report from Kent County Medical Examiner Stephen Cohle gives some indication as to why those efforts weren’t made immediately.

“He was tended to by the team trainer and physician,” the report reads. “He apparently answered affirmatively when asked if he had been hit by someone and if he had struck his head and he was given the concussion protocol.”

Cohle told 24 Hour News 8 that information was provided to him by the team’s physician.

The lawsuit filed by Upshaw’s mother Jewel Upshaw, however, suggests that the doctor was not there at the time of the collapse.

“Upon information and belief, the Drive’s team doctor had stepped out before the end of the basketball game and was not present nor available when Zeke collapsed, and he conveyed this information to Ms. Upshaw at the hospital,” the lawsuit reads.

Last week, Jewel Upshaw told 24 Hour News 8 she did not believe her son was conscious enough to answer any questions following his collapse.

When asked, Cohle told 24 Hour News 8 that it is possible that a person could be able to speak for several seconds following a cardiac incident like the one Upshaw suffered. He could not say definitively whether that happened in this case.

Video that shows the collapse and initial response indicates that it took about 12 seconds following the collapse for the first person to approach. After Upshaw fell, he appeared motionless.

His mother said she didn’t believe the claim that her son was conscious at all following his collapse.

Cohle told 24 Hour News 8 via email that watching the video was “very chilling.”

“Makes you wonder what they were doing/observing,” he continued. “Doesn’t look like he was moving the whole time.”

The autopsy report lists arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy as Upshaw’s cause of death. It also says he had cardiomegaly, an enlarged heart, commonly seen in athletes.

The collapse preceding his death was the second time Upshaw had collapsed while exerting himself in recent history, the autopsy report states. He was treated at a hospital in Nevada after collapsing while playing basketball in June of 2017.

“He had a cardiac workup and was found to have concentric hypertrophy of the left ventricle (1.9 cm). It was determined that he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy,” the autopsy report states.

The report says that a stress echo test with exercise panel was conducted in October 2017 at Metro Health University of Michigan Hospital.

“The test was interpreted as normal,” the autopsy reads.

As a result of her lawsuit, Upshaw’s mother and attorneys say they hope to raise awareness about proper response to cardiac emergencies in basketball players.

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