Amber Brown remains in coma with family at her side

NORFOLK, Va. -- Seven days after Norfolk State forward Amber Brown was found unconscious in her dorm room, she remains in a coma while her family prays for a miracle.

"All I have is the word of God," said Coretta Brown, who has seldom left her daughter's bedside at Sentara Heart Hospital for the last week. "Friends and family are keeping my spirits up, but God has already shown his healing and his word is all I have."

Initially, doctors put Amber Brown, 19, in a medically induced coma to halt the repeated seizures she had endured after suffering a diabetic stroke on New Year's Day. Now those medications have been halted, and the family remains hopeful she will wake up.

"She opened her eyes today," said her sister, Ebony, who played alongside Amber, a junior, for the last two seasons at Norfolk State. "But we don't know if it's a reflex or a response.

"Right now we're just praying, hoping and wishing," she said. "Everything. She has to show us something in the next few days."

When Amber Brown didn't show up in the locker room shortly before the Spartans' late-morning practice on Jan. 1, her teammates and coach Debra Clark became concerned. Guard Koryn Lawrence got no answer at Brown's door, prompting her to call Ebony.

Inside, they found Amber on the floor, unresponsive, the likely result of a diabetic stroke. She is believed to have been there for at least 12 hours.

Amber Brown suffers from Type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition when the pancreas fails to make insulin, a hormone needed by the body to allow glucose to enter cells to produce energy. Type 1 diabetes has no cure but can be managed by closely monitoring blood-sugar levels.

"We believe she had a seizure in her room and that caused her to stroke," Ebony said.

Before the ambulance left campus, Amber suffered another seizure and went into cardiac arrest, according to Ebony. An hour later at the hospital, Amber's heart stopped again, but she was able to be revived again.

But her blood-sugar levels were alarmingly high; anything higher than 600 can cause life-threatening dehydration and a diabetic coma, according to the Mayo Clinic.

"Her blood-sugar was 1,400 when she came in," Ebony said.

Initially, doctors weren't optimistic about recovery, but the family clings to any sign they can to remain positive. Amber developed pneumonia in the hospital, and Ebony said the fever accompanying it continues to go down. She has shown movement in her feet, but that could also be a reflex. They believe she tried to open her eyes Friday when prompted.

"We can only pray," Ebony said.

Amber's father, Paul Taylor, and stepfather, William Johnson, also have visited. Coretta Brown flew to Norfolk from Atlanta on Jan. 1 and sleeps at Amber's side. She attended Tuesday's Norfolk State/Princeton men's game, where a fundraiser for the family was held.

Norfolk State, which plays a men's and women's doubleheader against Florida A&M on Saturday, will continue to collect funds for the Brown family throughout January. In addition, a GoFundMe page has been set up by Amber's aunt, Donna Jett-Freelove, and a Facebook page has been created.

"My mom reads all of the letters to Amber that people write to her," Ebony said. "She reads the prayers people leave on Facebook."

Ebony, who calls Amber "my best friend," last spoke with her sister on Dec. 30. Amber's two suite-mates at her university apartment are home for holiday break. Classes resume on Monday.

Amber has known about her diabetes for the last year, but probably has had the disease her entire life, Ebony said. Clark said she sent Amber to student health last spring when she noticed her listlessness in practice. She was later diagnosed after further testing.

"She hasn't had the condition long enough to have a full management of it," Clark said. "But she's done well for the most part, so we don't know what happened. But there's been progress since she's been admitted. I'm hopeful."

Clark said Amber has always been the "mother hen" on the team, taking on a leadership role among her teammates.

A psychology major, Amber made the MEAC commissioner's all-academic team last season and planned to become a psychiatrist. She appeared in two games this year, starting two while averaging 1.7 points.

"Every time I get scared, something comes to me that tells me to keep hope," Ebony said. "She wasn't supposed to come this far, so I believe she's telling us not to give up."