November 16, 2012

Gurganious done but not finished

Kevin McCarthy

On February 2, 2010, sophomore David Gurganious lay on the floor behind the El Cerrito High gymnasium bench literally fighting for his life. Gurganious stopped breathing twice after suffering cardiac arrest. Soon, life-saving medical equipment arrived and he was eventually transported to the hospital.

photo of David Gurganious

Gurganious survived and was eventually diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, with elements of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy -- this despite no family history of any heart disease.

In a miracle of sorts, Gurganious' life was not only saved but he encountered no neurological deficit.

He received an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator in his chest and was placed on medication that would become part of the rest of his life.

Certainly thankful for being among the living, Gurganious was now deprived of participating in the love of his Such a situation has negatively impacted many a life.

Also facing him was the matter of determining what to do post high school.

Some would have become resentful of the situation and consumed by bitterness. Others would have stepped back, withdrawing into a virtual cocoon.

It wasn't easy but Gurganious chose to take his basket of lemons and make the proverbial lemonade.

Now he is enrolled at Diablo Valley College (DVC) in the athletic training program and also working as a student-manager with Coach Steve Coccimiglio's basketball team.

So why not a wailing 'why me'?

"It's not a case of forgetting about basketball or not caring about it," Gurganious explained. "It has been kind of hard because I'll always love the game."

But having to step away doesn't necessarily translate into a turning of one's back.

"Since I'm not able to play, I wanted to stay around the game."

So he looked around and charted a different life course.

"Diablo Valley College wasn't that far away and they had an athletic training program."

Planning became action.

"I spoke with [DVC Assistant] Coach [Derrick] Jones because I knew him when he was coaching at Berkeley High," Gurganious offered. "He encouraged me to speak with Coach Coccimiglio, so I did."

That allowed him to utilize some of what he is and will be learning.

As for longterm, "I want to have a degree in sports medicine and sports training and be working with a high school or college basketball team."

"He's a really good kid and he is helping us everyday," said Coccimiglio. "He also travels with us."

Philosophically, Gurganious said, "like my Dad phrases it, it's a second half of life and time to grind it out."

Who knows, maybe Gurganious will someday replicate what first responders/EMTs did for him -- paying it forward by saving a life.