Search For Answers In Buffalo Area High Schooler's Death

8:23 PM, Apr 29, 2013   |    comments
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Lackawanna, NY - Seniors from Lackawanna High School were due to return home on Monday from Disney World, sadly, minus one of their own.

The search for answers continues as to why their classmate, Jeffrey Cintron, 17, died suddenly on the trip.

A member of Cintron's family told WGRZ-TV that, at least preliminarily, his death may have tied to Marfan's Syndrome.

Marfan's is a genetic disorder of the connective tissues

People with Marfan's tend to grow to be unusually tall, with long limbs, long, thin fingers, and sometimes-elongated facial figures.

For many decades it had been thought that President Lincoln may have suffered from Marfan's.

The very physical characteristics of many with Marfan's also makes them desirable as athletes...but sometimes, the most serious complications ---being defects of the aorta and heart valves, can spell sudden death.

The nation's attention was called to this in 1986 when volleyball star Flo Hymen collapsed on the court and died from such an attack.

Researchers have found that an early indication of such an episode is sudden and severe pain in the back.

Interim Lackawanna School Superintendent Anne Spadone tells 2 On Your Side that Cintron was complaining of back pain when the decision was made to send him to the hospital.

A doctor familiar with Marfan's says a lot has changed in recent decades.

"For people who have dilatation or widening of the aortic blood vessels there are medications we can use to minimize the effects," said Dr. Luther Robinson M.D., a Pediatric Geneticist.
Perhaps the most well known Marfan's case locally-- which fortunately had a successful conclusion --was that of Vory Billups.

In 1984, the 6'8" Billups was one of the area's most highly recruited basketball stars while at Bennett High School.

He accepted a scholarship to play for St. Bonaventure University, but never stepped on a college court after his physical raised concerns that-due Marfan's -- the stress on his heart could kill him.

Marfan's ended his hoops career. However, decision not to let him play may have saved his life.

Today, Billups is Director of Admissions at Atlanta Technical College, and is active in the National Marfan's Foundation, His daughter also has Marfan's Syndrome.

"If your son or daughter is involved in sports at all, please make certain they have an echo cardiogram and electro cardiogram prior to participating in sports," Billups said.

Interestingly, Billups and Dr. Robinson also noted that Marfan's patients are often advised to avoid jarring and high impact rides at amusement parks.

Part of the investigation into the death of Cintron will presumably include an accounting of his activities Friday at Disney World, in the hours before he died.

"The life of a person who has Marfan's Syndrome, can be as productive as one wants, given whatever their situation is...and knowing that there's increased risks prompts one to govern themselves accordingly," Dr. Robinson said.

Click on the video player to watch ours story from 2 on Your Side reporter Dave McKinley and photojournalist JT Messinger. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2


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