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The mother of a Navy recruit who died in boot camp claims the service ignored clear PT-related health risks
The mother of a Navy recruit who died after a boot camp run at the Great Lakes base earlier this year said she will seek a second autopsy after a blood disorder was determined to have played a role in her daughter's death.
Kenya Evans said the Navy discovered that her daughter Kierra, 20, possessed the sickle cell trait during a medical exam. Most who have it don't experience symptoms of sickle cell disease — a potentially lethal condition that causes blood cells to deform and clog blood vessels — but they can surface during hard exercise.
On Feb. 22, Kierra Evans was doing a timed training run at the North Shore base when she threw up and collapsed, according to Lake County coroner records obtained by the Tribune. She was transported to Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital but fell into cardiac arrest and died.
The coroner determined that the cause of Evans' death was exertional rhabdomyolysis — the breakdown of muscle tissue during intense exercise — with sickle cell trait listed as a significant contributing factor.
Kierra Evans(U.S. Navy photo)
Evans was the first of two recruits to die during boot camp this year. Kelsey Nobles, 18, of Mobile, Alabama, died April 23 from a probable cardiac arrhythmia due to myocarditis — in other words, an abnormal heartbeat caused by inflammation of the heart muscle.
Though Nobles also possessed the sickle cell trait, the coroner's office concluded it did not play a role in her death.
The deaths prompted Great Lakes to announce in May it was withholding people with unnamed "medical traits" from intense exercise pending a review.
The Navy also issued an administrative memo telling fitness trainers to familiarize themselves with sickle cell trait, and for African American personnel, who are disproportionately affected by the condition, to "engage with medical (staff) to determine their status and understand the risk."
A Great Lakes spokesman did not return messages seeking comment Monday.
Kenya Evans said her daughter, who was from Monroe, Louisiana, didn't grow up an athlete but did physical training during high school ROTC classes. But the exercise at boot camp was far more intense, she said, and Kierra apparently struggled with it.
Two days before Kierra's death, she made a brief call home and told her mother she was being "ASMO'd" — Navy slang for being set back in training — for unspecified medical reasons, Kenya Evans said.
The coroner's report says little about the circumstances of Kierra Evans' death, though some researchers have found that people with sickle cell trait are particularly susceptible to exertional rhabdomyolysis, which can shut down the heart and kidneys. Medical journals have recorded numerous instances of military members dying from the syndrome.
"This is something that's been described repeatedly in military recruits going back to the 1980s," Dr. Victor Gordeuk, director of the sickle cell center at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago. "It still is the case that people with sickle cell trait need to take extra caution, rest frequently, drink fluids frequently and not overexert themselves. It's well-known."
The Navy requires recruits with sickle cell trait to wear red belts during physical training, and Kenya Evans said that should have told the instructors not to push her daughter too hard.
"If they felt like she was struggling with that exercise and knowing her health condition, they should have sent her back home," she said. "That's how I feel about it."
Kierra Evans' death certificate was finalized Oct. 22. Kenya Evans said she planned to have her daughter's body exhumed and a second autopsy performed to learn more about the circumstances of Kierra's death. The Navy, she said, has told her little about it.
"This health condition (Kierra had), they knew it," she said. "They found it. They should have handled it better."
The coroner's reports include more details about Nobles' death.
Witness statements say Nobles, who was wearing a red belt, was close to finishing the one-and-a-half mile run required to graduate from boot camp — recruits must hit cutoff times that vary depending on sex and age — when she collapsed.
She repeatedly tried to get back on her feet with the encouragement of her recruit division commander, and when she couldn't, crawled to the finish line.
One statement says Navy personnel tried to keep Nobles awake and hydrated, but she quickly became unresponsive. The lead instructor called an ambulance that transported Nobles to Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, but she died in the emergency room.
The coroner's report concluded that while Nobles had sickle cell trait, there was no evidence it played a role in her death.
Nobles' family could not be reached for comment.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which reviews deaths that don't involve combat or terminal disease, declined to release its findings to the Tribune, saying the investigations were still pending.
©2019 the Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
‘Take what’s inside and get it outside’ — Air Force psychologist reminds airmen of mental health resources
Kirtland Air Force Base isn't much different from the world beyond its gates when it comes to dealing with mental illnesses, a base clinical psychologist says.
Maj. Benjamin Carter told the Journal the most frequent diagnosis on the base is an anxiety disorder.
"It's not a surprise, but I anticipate about anytime in the population in America, about 20% of the population has some form of diagnosable anxiety disorder, and it's no different in the military," he said.
Leading the way among the anxiety disorders, he said, were post-traumatic stress disorder "or something like panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder."
The DNA of a niece and nephew, who never met their uncle, has helped identify the remains of the Kansas Marine who died in WWII.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that 21-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Raymond Warren was identified using DNA and circumstantial evidence. Warren had been buried in a cemetery in the Gilbert Islands, where he was killed when U.S. forces tried to take secure one of the islands from the Japanese.
The Battle of Tarawa lasted from Nov. 20 to Nov. 23, 1943, and claimed the lives of 1,021 U.S. marines and sailors, more than 3,000 Japanese soldiers and an estimated 1,000 Korean laborers before the U.S. troops seized control, the agency said.
Arizona lawmakers are vowing to fight a plan by the Air Force to start retiring some of the nation's fleet of A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack jets — a major operation at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base — as part of a plan to drop some older, legacy weapon systems to help pay for new programs.
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., a former A-10 pilot, and U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., both vowed to fight the move to retire 44 of the oldest A-10s starting this year.
During a press briefing last week, Air Force officials unveiled plans to start mothballing several older platforms, including retiring some A-10s even as it refits others with new wings.
MOSCOW/SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un was filmed riding through the snow on a white stallion last year, has spent tens of thousands of dollars on 12 purebred horses from Russia, according to Russian customs data.
Accompanied by senior North Korean figures, Kim took two well-publicized rides on the snowy slopes of the sacred Paektu Mountain in October and December.
State media heralded the jaunts as important displays of strength in the face of international pressure and the photos of Kim astride a galloping white steed were seen around the world.
North Korea has a long history of buying pricey horses from Russia and customs data first reported by Seoul-based NK News suggests that North Korea may have bolstered its herd in October.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A high-profile local Taliban figure who announced and justified the 2012 attack on teenage Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has escaped detention, Pakistan's interior minister confirmed a few days after the militant announced his breakout on social media.
Former Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, who claimed responsibility on behalf of his group for scores of Taliban attacks, proclaimed his escape on Twitter and then in an audio message sent to Pakistani media earlier this month.
The Pakistani military, which had kept Ehsan in detention for three years, has declined to comment but, asked by reporters about the report, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, said: "That is correct, that is correct."
Shah, a retired brigadier general, added that "you will hear good news" in response to questions about whether there had been progress in hunting down Ehsan.