One moment Keyla Martinez was a healthy, vibrant 14-year old freshman basketball phenom, just a few weeks away from embarking on her first varsity season. The next moment she was being rushed to the hospital in a fight for her life.
“We were doing just some basic running and jump roping and core work,” girls basketball coach Chris Lovermi said of the day Keyla fell ill. “[Keyla] complained of a stomach ache, which I thought was just from the workout. But it was obvious after a few minutes that it was a little bit more than that.”
When Keyla arrived at the hospital, doctors discovered intracranial bleeding and she was placed in a medically-induced coma to reduce pressure on her brain.
Keyla remained comatose in the intensive care unit for about 10 days, said her mother Luisa, who remained by her daughter’s side for the entirety of her 21-day stay in New York Presbyterian Hospital.
“I came back [home] two times to check mail and get clothing, but I didn’t feel right leaving her for any more than two hours,” Luisa said.
Keyla’s father, Ruben, was faced with the agonizing burden of having to be away from his daughter each day to go to work. He said the experience was extremely difficult on him.
“It was really tough for me and for all of us in the house,” Ruben said. “The house is totally different without her.”
Outside of immediate family, visitors weren’t allowed in Keyla’s hospital room for fear of elevating her blood pressure and brain function, which both had to be kept at a very low level during her induced coma.
“I couldn’t see my girl there just laying in that bed,” Ruben said. “I’d talk to her when she was laying there. I’d tell her she needed to come home soon.”
Ruben got his wish Sunday, after three excruciating weeks, when Keyla was released from the hospital. She’s expected to make a full recovery, her mother said.
Other than being a little weak, Luisa said Keyla’s doing much better and her recovery has been getting rave reviews from her neurologist. Her mobility and speech are in tact, and she hasn’t suffered any brain damage or lost any memory, Luisa said.
Despite having put Keyla through a battery of tests, doctors still don’t know what caused her cerebral hemorrhage. Her mother said they might never know – which has been a tough pill for the family to swallow.
“The fact that they don’t know and we may never know, there’s always that thought as to, ‘Will it occur again? Is it going to affect this or that?’” Luisa said.
“They kind of said that the bleed she had was a one-time bleed,” Luisa said. “But since we don’t know what caused it, we just have to be extra careful.”
It’s still unclear when Keyla will be cleared to return to a high school classroom, but Coach Lovermi said when he spoke to her on the phone the other day she was in good spirits and sounded anxious to get back. In the mean time, she'll be homsechooled.
Keyla is expected to make an appearance at tonight’s girls basketball home opener against Ramapo, which the team has dedicated in her honor.
Admission to the game is free, but donations are appreciated. The sale of t-shirts, concessions and proceeds from a raffle during the game will all be donated to the Martinez family, and an authentic autographed baseball signed by Derek Jeter will be auctioned off before the fourth quarter.
Luisa’s motherly instinct has her feeling concerned that all the excitement of the game might prove stressful for her daughter, but said she couldn’t say no when Keyla told her she really wanted to attend.
“I was adamant and kept asking her, ‘Are you sure you wanna do that?’” Luisa said. “But I understand why she does and she worked so hard to get to where she wants to go. I’m sure it kills her [to not be able to play].”
Luisa said they aren’t pushing it right now, but that Keyla’s neurologist is optimistic she could get back on the court as early as this spring. It really depends on the progress she makes once she starts physical and occupational therapy at the Kessler Institute, Luisa said.
When Keyla is ready to go, Coach Lovermi said she’ll have a spot on the roster.
“My hope is that one day this season she’ll be sitting on that bench with us," he said. “One of my goals this year is to have her walk in this gym and be a part of this team.”
Friday's game tips off at 7 p.m.