CLEVELAND (WJW)-- He was the starting center for Cleveland’s Rhodes High School’s basketball team, No. 19.
But in November 2017, Rondell Sullivan Jr.’s world would forever change.
"You know your boy was at a basketball game, just starting 8 o'clock in the morning and then just a couple hours later, something's wrong, we need you at the hospital," said Tracie Brown, Rondell's mother.
Rondell collapsed midcourt, going into full cardiac arrest. CPR was initiated and paramedics called. But when EMS arrived, he did not have a pulse.
"His heart stopped three times. They had the whole Independence Fire Department just taking turns just trying to revive him," said Rondell Sullivan, the teen's dad.
"I don't even like to say, the hospital people told us our kid was dead."
A CT scan revealed a pulmonary embolism in his left coronary artery after never being diagnosed with any type of heart condition. He survived, but his recovery was an uphill battle.
Rondell was brought to Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation, where he was a patient for five months.
"You could see the gears turning in his head, but he just couldn't figure out how to get his body to move the way it needed to move to be able to get out of bed, to be able to stand and walk," Dr. Erin Murdock said.
Rondell had to learn to walk and talk all over again, requiring assistance with all aspects of his young life.
Now standing at 6 foot 4, the 18-year-old is making tremendous strides, undergoing physical therapy three times a week and taking it one step at a time.
Rondell is not out of the woods just yet. His parents said because he's getting better physically, he's still susceptible to having another heart attack.
They said he will have to undergo open heart surgery sometime this year. The Martin Luther King Jr. High School senior said he hopes it's later in the year, since he wants to attend his high school prom in the spring.