In My Words with Davis Nwankwo

Jan. 2, 2008

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During a routine practice session on March 6, 2006, Davis Nwankwo's life changed forever. Lying motionless on the basketball court after suffering cardiac arrest, Nwankwo was just moments away from death when he was revived by former Vanderbilt athletic trainer Mike Meyer, who administered one shock from an automated external defibrillator and two breaths. Following the near-death experience, Nwankwo was advised to give up his basketball career after being diagnosed with an enlarged heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Now almost two years later, he has adjusted to his new way of life and plans to graduate in May with a degree in engineering science and minors in economics and management technology. Despite the diagnosis, Nwankwo still is a member of the team and is able to participate in certain drills at practice.

On how his life has changed since suffering cardiac arrest

It definitely has changed. I went from playing basketball every day to not playing every day, which is a big difference. Now I just spend most of my time on the sideline coaching. It has been tough not being out there.

On how hypertrophic cardiomyopathy has changed his fitness habits and diet
I don't lift weights because I'm supposed to stay away from weights. All I do are pushups, sit-ups, get on the bike and occasionally jog up and down the court. I do about 300 pushups a day and just work out manually. As far as eating, I have more salads and more vegetables and less candy and less junk food.

On the different perspective he has on life now
I look at life totally differently. I value the stuff I have more. I realize that things can get taken from you just like that. I try to stay thankful all of the time and remember where I came from. I still have stuff to do, and I still have goals in life and that is what drives me and makes me determined.

On how difficult it was when the doctors recommended that he not play anymore
It was very tough. My parents and coach (Kevin) Stallings were in the room, and the doctors came up and told me the bad news. I didn't really show any emotion. The only time I showed emotion throughout the whole process was when I saw my mom was crying and my sister was crying, so it was pretty tough on me when I saw them aching. It was real tough.

On wishing he could be on the court playing
It is very tough because you know you could be contributing and make huge contributions to this team. I'm in good shape, and I feel like I can still play, so it is definitely challenging.

On former Vanderbilt athletic trainer Mike Meyer, who saved his life
He's a big factor in my life. He is such a great guy. I definitely miss his presence. He is a great trainer. We definitely stay in contact. When he's in town, we are going to do lunch and when I'm in town, we are going to do lunch.

On still being recognized as a part of the team
It is great. (Coach Stallings) knows that he is like a second father to me. Obviously, we've gotten a lot closer ever since what happened to me, and I'm learning with him on a consistent basis. I'm also appreciative that I'm able to spend time with my teammates, and I'm always around them. The only thing different is that I'm not playing with them.

On how supportive his teammates and coaches have been after his diagnosis
They have been very supportive. They understand what I went through. They understand that I don't want to hear about it because it is in the past. They've been so great about doing that. I'm definitely appreciative of how they treat me.

On his parents
As a young kid, my parents stressed education. They always told me that no matter what happens education is first, and that I needed to get a college degree because when you get that, you can do anything. You can say I've been instilled with that since childhood.

On what he'd like to do upon graduation
I'm going to go to graduate school. I'm probably going to go to the Owen School of Business at Vanderbilt. I've got a lot of stuff to accomplish, and I can't wait to see what my future holds.



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