Norfolk State women's player in coma, fighting for her life

Jan 8, 2016 - 11:11 PM A week ago, Amber Brown was like thousands of other women's college basketball players, playing and practicing with her Norfolk State teammates.

Now, the junior forward is fighting for her life laying in a hospital bed.

Brown, 19, was found unconscious on her dorm room floor on New Year's Day.

She has been hospitalized the last eight days in a medically induced coma at a Norfolk, Virginia hospital. Family members say they are praying for the best, though doctors suggested the prognosis is not good.

Brown's mother, Coretta, has kept vigil at her daughter's bedside at Norfolk General Hospital since arriving from her home in Atlanta, said Ebony Brown, the player's sister.

While doctors have been brutally honest about Brown's prognosis, the family remains anchored by its faith.

''Sometimes, out of nowhere, I'll stop to pray,'' Ebony Brown said. ''It's just what needs to be done.''

Brown, diagnosed last year as a Type 1 diabetic, had spiked glucose levels when she was found in her dorm room, and her condition was complicated by seizures, said Donna Jett-Fullove, her cousin. To stop them, doctors put her into a medically induced coma, allowing them to perform a cat scan.

What the test showed was devastating damage.

''Three strokes on a major part of her brain, two heart attacks and a blood clot in the top of her head,'' Jett-Fullove said in a phone interview from her home in Georgia. ''They said she will be in a vegetative state.''

Ebony Brown said her sister tried to open her eyes on Thursday, though doctors said it might have been just a reflex. Ebony hopes it was more than that.

''Memories just ran through my mind,'' Ebony Brown said. ''I just started talking to her when she tried to open her eyes. I just wanted to let her know that I was right there in front of her.''

This difficult situation came on suddenly.

When Amber Brown wasn't at the New Year's Day practice on time, a teammate tried calling her, but got no answer. So the unidentified teammate alerted coach Debra Clark.

''No call. No show from her. That's just doesn't happen,'' Clark said Friday.

The coach said she sent one of her players to check on Brown, and when there was no answer on her phone or at the dorm room where she lives alone, campus police were called to gain access to the room. They found her, barely breathing.

Jett-Fullove said after paramedics arrived, they were preparing to bring her out of the dorm when she stopped breathing. They revived her, Jett-Fullove said, and she stopped breathing again on the way to the hospital. Once there, she coded a third time, this time for approximately 20 minutes, Jett-Fullove said.

The school has declined to comment on Brown's condition, citing privacy laws, but dedicated its men's basketball game to her on Tuesday night. It also announced on Thursday that it plans to collect donations to help cover the Brown family's expenses and other needs at all of its home games throughout the month of January, and possibly longer.

Norfolk State athletes are insured against accidental medical issues, but not under a comprehensive policy, the school said. Expenses incurred in Brown's treatment will be handled under the family's medical insurance.

Clark, meantime, is trying to help her team through uncharted territory. It is the kind of challenge Brown would have helped the team navigate, the coach said, describing the 5-foot-10 forward as a ''mother hen.''

''She's always looking out for everyone, making sure everyone has what they need,'' Clark said. ''She's an advocate for everybody. Just a sweet person, would do anything for anybody.''

Clark added that Brown would want the team, which has lost all 12 of its games, to forge ahead. Brown has played in 10 games this season, and had started two, averaging about nine minutes a contest.

''Now we have a little bit more to play for than just basketball,'' Clark said, ''and that's the message we have to try to convey to the girls. We have to keep pressing on and think about how Amber would want us to be.''

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