It was early in the school year — Aug. 6, 2019 — and 17-year-old Quindrecus Moss was practicing with the Thomson High School football team in Thomson, Georgia, when he suddenly collapsed on the field.
After trying CPR, his coaches called 911 and Moss was rushed to the hospital.
His mother, April Lucas, a nurse who graduated from the Medical College of Georgia, was informed by doctors of his condition and recognized the name: anomalous left coronary artery (ALCA), a congenital heart defect.
“The coronary artery is coming off an abnormal location,” explained Dr. Anastasios Polimenakos, director of pediatric and congenital heart surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia and chief of pediatric and congenital cardiothoracic surgery at the Medical College of Georgia. “A small subset will come off at an angle that during exercise can cause cardiac arrest, which is what happened here — he was resuscitated and we found it.”
Lucas noticed her son’s vital signs and realized that he would be fine, even when he was unresponsive. “When he said, ‘I don’t feel good’ — he said a complete sentence, so I knew he would be OK.”
Moss bounced back quickly, getting discharged two days later, but was being readied for surgery with Polimenakos later that month at Children’s.
Even so, ALCA is very uncommon and very serious.
“A lot of these we find out about unfortunately when they’re deceased,” Polimenakos said.
On Aug. 20, Moss underwent an operation to relocate the coronary artery and make the opening wide enough to accept unobstructed blood flow.
“Quindrecus didn’t act nervous at all,” Lucas said. “It was a very big deal but it didn’t faze him at all. If anything, his father was a lot more nervous.”
Incredibly, Moss was back home two days later, due to his active lifestyle.
“His recovery was amazing. He went back to school after two weeks because I made him stay home,” Lucas said, even though he wanted to go back immediately.
Moss made the team but was unable to play that season. “He went to football practice every day anyway,” said Lucas.
Moss will graduate in a few months and he has a bright future ahead of him, with or without football, and Lucas credits the physicians at Children’s.
“The people at Children’s are really easy to talk to, so I think it helps the patients; they establish a good rapport. The patient-centered care was a big deal for us.”