Work in Sports
Blood clot killed Thomas, doctors say
Posted: Thursday February 10, 2000 12:03 AM
MIAMI (AP) -- Derrick Thomas died from a massive blood clot in an artery between his lungs and his heart, doctors said Wednesday.
Thomas, 33, was being transferred from his hospital bed to a wheelchair on his way to therapy Tuesday morning when he told his mother he was not feeling well just before his eyes rolled back, said Dr. Frank Eismont, an orthopedic surgeon at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
The Chiefs star, who held the NFL record of seven sacks in a game, went into cardio-respiratory arrest, Eismont said. Doctors performed an autopsy Wednesday.
The nine-time All-Pro linebacker left behind thousands of grieving fans and nearly as many friends and relatives trying to cope with his sudden death.Thomas will be remembered in both Kansas City, Mo., and Miami within the next 10 days.
Memorial services are set to begin in Kansas City and then move to Miami, Thomas' hometown and the place where he will be buried.
There will be a viewing Monday at Thomas' church in Kansas City, then a memorial service at Kemper Arena the following day, Chiefs president Carl Peterson told CNNSI.com's Josie Karp.
"I'm not sure it can hold all the people who want to attend," Peterson said. "It will be a public opportunity for Derrick's fans and friends to honor him."
Thomas will be transferred back to Miami, where there will be a viewing Feb. 18. He will be buried Feb. 19.
The reason for the delay is because Thomas' mother, Edith Morgan, lost a sister last weekend, Peterson said. Thomas' family will be at her funeral Saturday in Tallahassee.
A week before he died, Thomas dictated a thank you letter for the outpouring of support he and his family had received since his accident. It will be released soon, Peterson said.
Thomas was driving a car during a snowstorm on Jan. 23 as he and two friends headed to the Kansas City airport to fly to St. Louis for the NFC championship game. He lost control of the car, and it overturned at least three times, police said.
Police said Thomas was speeding and weaving in traffic, but no charges were filed.
Thomas and passenger Michael Tellis, 49, were not wearing seat belts and were thrown from the car. Tellis was killed and Thomas' spine and neck were broken. The third person in the car, who was wearing his seat belt, sustained only minor injuries.
Thomas was brought to the hospital in Miami, his hometown, where he remained paralyzed from the chest down after having surgery to repair his spinal column. Doctors had hoped he would walk again.
Others were certain.
"He would have won the battle, there's no doubt in my mind," former Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer said.
Jackson Memorial is the home of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, the world's largest spinal cord injury research center, and its surgeons have operated on injured athletes before, including race car driver Emerson Fittipaldi.
An All-American at Alabama, the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Thomas became an immediate star as a pass-rushing specialist after being taken in the first round of the 1989 draft. He was an All-Pro in his first nine seasons and ranked ninth on the career list with 126.5 career sacks.
With one of the quickest first moves of any defender in the league, Thomas became known for his "sack and strip" move, where he closed fast on a quarterback's blind side and hacked at his arm to knock the ball out of his hand.
He set the single-game sack record in 1990 in a game against Seattle. That game was on Veterans Day, and Thomas dedicated his performance to his father, an Air Force pilot killed in Vietnam.
Thomas is survived by his mother, Edith Morgan; his son, Derrick Thomas Jr., 8; and a half-brother, Gregory Morgan, 19.
"He's really one of everyone's own," Peterson said. "He's a special, special guy that came our way. And we were very, very fortunate to have him 11 of his 33 years. You don't replace someone like this. We won't forget him."