If Lewis is in the clear, then why is there so much gray in picture? PRO BASKETBALL

May 11, 1993|By Dan Shaughnessy | Dan Shaughnessy,Boston Globe

BOSTON -- We can only be happy for Reggie Lewis. And we can only hope that this latest news is accurate and final.

"I'm just glad it's finally come to an end," Lewis said yesterday after he was discharged from Brigham and Women's Hospital.

End? Will this ever be over? Will Lewis ever be the same? Will the Celtics be the same? Will team sports' medical practices be the same? Will newspaper, television and radio coverage be the same? Will it ever be over for those of you who absorb and trust the news you hear and read?

Who can be certain this latest diagnosis is correct?

There never has been a local sports story like this one. Never. This one made the ballad of Oil Can Boyd sound predictable and mundane. The Lewis story has been one with too much speculation, too much hysteria and not enough time to let the facts come forth.

This is an aggressive media town. We banged on the door and demanded answers. Some of the answers were partial and some were completely false. Reggie Lewis and his family were put through the wringer. In every way.

It has been 12 days since Lewis collapsed on the court against the Charlotte Hornets. Lewis went back in that game. Twice. Celtics physician Arnold Scheller got off to a bad start after that game when he said Lewis didn't go back in for a third time because the Celtics were way ahead. CEO Dave Gavitt was quick to correct Scheller. Gavitt said the score was no consideration.

The next two days were filled with secrecy and wild speculation.

Gavitt said Scheller was the man who made the decision to put Lewis back into the game.

On Sunday, May 2, before leaving for Charlotte, the Celtics came out and announced that 12 heart specialists -- "the Dream Team of heart doctors" -- had discovered a cardiomyopathy condition in Lewis. Later that night, Lewis dissociated himself from the Celtics' care and switched hospitals.

The next day, Scheller went on television and said that it looked like Lewis' career was over. The doctor said that Lewis' switch of hospitals was indicative of "denial."

Here in the media, we first speculated that the Celtics were not cautious enough because they allowed Lewis to go back into the game after he collapsed. Then we spanked the Celtics for not being forthcoming. Later, the NBA Players Association blasted the Celtics for saying too much.

Meanwhile, Lewis' wife reportedly was furious that she wasn't included when the Dream Team doctors discussed her husband's condition. Then folks at New England Baptist talked about the irresponsibility of folks at Brigham and Women's who relocated Lewis under the cover of darkness without an ambulance. Meanwhile, WEEI's Jimmy Myers was questioning the team's motives and painting some Celtics fans with the brush of racism.

Day after day, Lewis stayed in the hospital for tests, and we spoke of his career in the past tense.

Finally, on these pages Saturday you were told that it was expected that Lewis would have surgery. We told you he was scheduled to have a defibrillator implanted. We gave you diagrams and a very thorough explanation of this procedure. We quoted a source who said that Lewis' electrophysiologic tests, which indicate a specific heart arrhythmia, were "quite decisive." A source said Lewis "would be crazy," to resume his career after the insertion of a defibrillator.

The next day someone very close to Lewis, someone who knew, called to say the story was false.

Now this. Dr. Gilbert Mudge yesterday said there was no evidence of any form of cardiomyopathy. The doctor said Lewis has a "normal athlete's heart."

And so it turns out that Reggie Lewis went for a 13th opinion and got some very good news. There's no heart problem. Maybe. It's a neural condition. Maybe.

Other doctors already have come forth to dispute Mudge's finding.

Stop us if you're confused. We, too, are confused. And we are sure that this isn't the end.

Who is responsible for putting this man back on a basketball court? It was Lewis himself who said his collapse made him think of Hank Gathers.

And what about the Celtics? How can they assemble this cardiac Dream Team, then reject its findings? The Celtics yesterday embraced Dr. Mudge's diagnosis. Totally. It's as if those first findings never existed.

It would be nice to tell you that the story finally is over. No more alarming headlines. No more talk about Lewis' career in the past tense. No more conflicting reports from very good doctors.

We can't promise this. We can only hope that Mudge is correct and that Lewis can live a healthy, normal life and continue doing the things he loves.

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