The DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office on Tuesday released the cause of death for a beloved student and high school dance team member who collapsed during summer workouts and later died.
Officials said Elyse Purefoy, 17, died from “Acute Cardiac Dysrhythmia due to an anomaly origin of the left main coronary artery,” Atlanta station WSB-TV reported. The manner of Purefoy’s death was listed as “natural.”
The heart defect wasn’t previously diagnosed.
The rising senior and member of the dance team at Arabia Mountain High School in the Atlanta suburb of Stonecrest, Georgia, was participating in summer practice in June when she passed out while running on the track. Medics rushed Purefoy to a local hospital, but she didn’t survive.
“Elyse was very determined, hardworking,” the teen’s father, Hank Purefoy, said through tears. “She was a 3.9 [GPA] student; she had all the accolades. She worked very hard this year. She outworked everybody.”
Workouts began shortly after 7:30 a.m., during which Purefoy and her teammates were instructed to run several laps around the school’s track. After the run, witnesses said the teen suddenly collapsed.
The American Heart Association describes dysrhythmia/arrhythmia as “any change from the normal sequence of electrical impulses,” causing the heart to beat too fast, too slow or erratically. The association notes that some arrhythmia are harmless, while others can be life-threatening, as the heart struggles to effectively pump blood to vital organs.
At the time, Hank Purefoy said he believed his daughter died as the result of “extreme dehydration.” Local station CBS46 reported that several dance team members said Elyse had asked her coaches for water several times during practice, but was denied.
“Schools need to take it more seriously when they hear complaints from their participants,” Arianna Ameler, a teammate of Purefoy’s, said at the time. “I think a lot of it is overlooked sometimes as you being weak.”
The teen’s family was alerted to the autopsy’s findings but were previously unaware of her heart condition, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Purefoy was laid to rest during a celebration of life service June 16.
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