One second, South Carolina State basketball player Ty Solomon was talking with a teammate about a defensive mistake and the mounting deficit on the scoreboard against N.C. State.
The next second, without any warning, he collapsed.
Solomon, a 5-10, 185-pound redshirt senior guard for the Bulldogs, fell unconscious and wasn’t breathing. Tyler Long, a South Carolina State team trainer, quickly started to administer CPR, while Wake County emergency medicine services personnel used an automated external defibrillator on him.
“I love those guys,” Solomon said Monday from his bed in the intensive care unit at the UNC Rex Healthcare’s N.C. Heart and Vascular Hospital. “Perfect timing, I guess. I was glad it happened where it happened at because I could have been with one of my teammates in a car and it could have been a whole different situation.”
Solomon played the first three minutes, 58 seconds of N.C. State’s 103-71 win on Saturday. S.C. State coach Murray Garvin removed him from the game as part of a normal substitution pattern. Solomon said he didn’t ask to be removed and felt no discomfort. He had no previous cardiac issues.
Solomon remembers sitting on the bench talking with his teammates. S.C. State had seen N.C. State score the game’s first 15 points.
“One of my teammates asked me what had he messed up on on defense,” Solomon said. “I don’t remember but I think I waved him off, you know, don’t worry about it. Then one of my other teammates looked at me and said ‘Are you OK?’ I remember putting my head in my hands and leaning over. Cause we were down by probably 15 (points). Just frustrated because of the stuff that was happening.”
That’s when Solomon’s memory stops. He collapsed on the bench and fell unconscious.
With Solomon flat on his back on the court, Long began chest compressions. His teammates waved towels and jackets trying to cool him. A public address announcement was made at the arena for a doctor to come to the S.C. State bench.
“Tyler stepped in at the right time, I guess with CPR,” Solomon said. “Everybody else came in with the defibrillator and did what they had to do to revive me.”
A minute or so later, the EMS crew arrived and used an automated external defibrillator to shock him.
The PNC Arena crowd fell silent except for cries from the S.C. State bench area and audible prayers. N.C. State’s players gathered in a huddle. N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts sat with and consoled a visibly upset Garvin.
The crowd at the arena clapped when Solomon was transported off the court on a stretcher. At some point during that time, Solomon regained consciousness.
“I woke up at the arena,” Solomon said. “I lifted my head up and I looked around and saw people. But I really wasn’t sure where I was at, really.”
Meanwhile his mother, Delores Speights, was home in South Carolina preparing for a family outing to the North Charleston Christmas Festival and Parade. Solomon was supposed to join the family there on Saturday night.
Garvin, who accompanied Solomon to the hospital, called her.
“He called me and told me that Ty collapsed on the floor and for me to meet him at Rex Hospital,” Speights said Monday. “I was on my way.”
About two hours into what she now calls the “longest drive,” Garvin called back. Solomon had been stabilized and was receiving treatment at the hospital. Garvin gave Solomon the phone to talk to his mother.
“That made a difference to know that he was OK,” Speights said. “But I still needed to see him. I still needed to be here.”
Back at PNC Arena, shortly after Solomon left in an ambulance with Garvin, S.C. State’s players were given the choice of whether or not they wanted to finish the game. They voted unanimously to play.
“They went into the locker room and made a decision for me that I would have made,” Solomon said. “I would have said the same thing, to play. I’m glad they did get back out there. Still tried. Still played.”
Before heading home, the team stopped by the hospital to visit with Solomon. He’s also received cards of support from N.C. State fans, some of whom stopped by the hospital to see him. Many others have used social media to post words of support for him.
“Just pretty much felt great to get the love, from people you know and people you don’t know,” Speights said. “Just to know that there are still very good people out there and there are people that believe in the power of prayer and God. That is always good to know.”
Long, the S.C. State trainer, and the EMS crew stopped by to see him and pose for a photo. Solomon posted it on Facebook, thanking the people who “literally saved my life.”
Solomon and his family still aren’t exactly sure what caused his sudden, serious condition. He’s going through a battery of tests to determine what happened. The status of his basketball career is unknown.
In the meantime, surrounded by family with his younger siblings in his hospital room, he’s living with a different attitude now.
“Right now, it’s just cherish every moment and don’t take anything for granted,” Solomon said. “Life, basketball, sports, family. Anything. Not holding grudges with anyone if you can. Get over it as quickly as you can because you are not promised the next second.”