2006-09-15 / Front Page

Arverne Teen Collapses, Dies In BCHS Gym Class

Faulty Heart Valve Blamed For Sudden Death
By Howard Schwach

Cardiac Arrhythmia due to a floppy Mitrial Valve is being blamed for the death of an Arverne teen as she took part in a gym class at Beach Channel High School, according to the Chief Medical Examiner.

As her friends looked on in horror, Schermiela Palmer, 16, fell face first on to the rubberized running track at Beach Channel High School on Wednesday morning.

While a crowd gathered on the football field, teachers and paramedics worked to get Palmer's heart beating again. They were unsuccessful, and she was declared dead at the Peninsula Hospital Center at 11:55 a.m.

Margie Feinberg, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said that an unidentified gym teacher ran from the track to his office in the school building to get a defibrillator immediately after Palmer collapsed, while another teacher attempted CPR on the stricken youth. By the time he returned with the lifesaving device, however, emergency medical technicians were already working on the teen.

School sources, who asked not to be identified because they have no permission to speak with the press, told The Wave that the class had already finished its run and was walking the track to cool down when Palmer collapsed at approximately 11 a.m.

They added that there were no advance warning signs of the impending tragedy.

Palmer's sister, Scherrie Palmer, a student at C.W. Post College, told The Wave that Palmer had failed her gym class last year because she could not run one lap on the 220-yard track in under three minutes and ten seconds.

"She was determined to do it this year," her sister said, adding that she finished the run under the mandated time just before she collapsed.

A DOE spokesperson declined to comment on whether that requirement was mandated by the school, the DOE or by the state education department.

An EMS ambulance rushed the comatose teen to the hospital center, where she was declared dead at 11:55 a.m., police say.

Scherrie Palmer said that her sister "was as good as they get."

"My sister never took drugs and was not into anything harmful," she said, adding that she was not sickly and did not have asthma, as one daily paper reported.

"She was a healthy girl," she said. "She had no medical problems at all."

In additon, her sister said, the girl sang with her church choir and recently sang for Mayor Michael Bloomberg at Carnegie Hall.

Scherrie said that her family is devastated by the sudden death of the youngest daughter.

She said, however, that her family is coping "one day at a time"

"I don't want to leave my parents to go back to school." she added. "There's only the four of us, and now one of us is gone."

Scherrie Palmer was angered by the school's insistence that her younger sister run one lap around the 220-yard track in order to pass gym for the year.

"She didn't like to run at all," she said. "How can they push kids like my sister to run that distance in a little over 3 minutes?"

"She tried last year and couldn't do it. This year, she made it," she added. "And then she died."

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