CHICAGO — The mother of a Navy recruit who died after a boot camp run at an Illinois base earlier this year said she will seek another autopsy after a blood disorder was revealed to have played a role in her daughter's death.
Kenya Evans told the Chicago Tribune that the Navy discovered that her daughter Kierra Evans, who was 20 when she died, possessed the sickle cell trait during a medical test.
Most who have it don't deal with symptoms of sickle cell disease, which is a potentially fatal condition that causes blood cells to deform and clog blood vessels. But the symptoms can emerge during rigorous exercise.
On Feb. 22, Kierra Evans was running during a timed training at the Naval Station Great Lakes in North Chicago when she vomited and collapsed, according to Lake County coroner records obtained by the newspaper. She was taken to a hospital but suffered cardiac arrest and died.
The cause of Evans' death was exertional rhabdomyolysis — the disintegration of muscle tissue during intense exercise — with sickle cell trait listed as an important contributing factor, the coroner determined.
Evans, who was from Monroe, Louisiana, was the first of two recruits to die during boot camp in 2019. Kelsey Nobles, 18, of Mobile, Alabama, died April 23 of possible cardiac arrest due to an irregular heartbeat.
Though Nobles also had the sickle cell trait, the coroner's office determined that it was not a factor in her death.
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The deaths led Great Lakes to announce in May that it was keeping people with unspecified "medical traits" from participating in intense exercise pending a review.
The Navy also issued an administrative memo encouraging fitness trainers to acquaint themselves with sickle cell trait, and for African American workers, who are disproportionately affected by the condition, to "engage with medical (staff) to determine their status and understand the risk."
A Great Lakes spokesman declined to comment.
Two days prior to Kierra's death, she called home and told her mother she was being set back in training for unspecified medical reasons, Kenya Evans said.
The Navy requires recruits with sickle cell trait to wear red belts during physical training, and Kenya Evans noted that meant instructors should have understood not to push her daughter too hard.
Kierra Evans' death certificate was completed Oct. 22. Her mother said she intends to have her daughter's body unearthed and a second autopsy performed to learn more about the circumstances surrounding her death. She said the Navy has not told her much about it.
"This health condition (Kierra had), they knew it," she said. "They found it. They should have handled it better."