Football player Robert Bush, 17, collapsed Monday at Newfield High School and is now on life support. NewsdayTV's Cecilia Dowd reports. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp; Photo credit: Bush Family

This story was reported by Robert Brodsky, Matthew Chayes, Cecilia Dowd, Candice Ferrette, Grant Parpan and Roger Rubin. It was written by Brodsky and Parpan.

A varsity football player suffered a "cardiac event" and is comatose and on life support after collapsing on the field at Newfield High School earlier this week, according to family members.

Robert Bush, 17, of Selden, was bending over during conditioning drills shortly after 5 p.m. Monday when he suddenly lost consciousness, according to Steve Bush of Georgia, one of the teen's older brothers. Robert had been outside for roughly four minutes during the school's intramural summer sports program when he collapsed, Middle Country Central School District officials said.

A football coach and team player each began CPR, according to detectives from the Suffolk County Police Department's Sixth Squad, who are investigating.

Another coach retrieved a defibrillator, used to revive someone from sudden cardiac arrest, according to district spokesman Jake Mendlinger. The coach used it on Bush before emergency medical teams arrived and rushed him to Stony Brook University Hospital, Mendlinger said.

Steve Bush said his brother was without proper blood and oxygen flow to the brain for at least 45 minutes and is now on life support.

"There's no more brain function," Bush told Newsday on Thursday. " … We are dealing with the end right now."

It was not immediately clear what caused Bush to collapse, but the family said they've been told he may have had a hereditary condition or a “thickening of the walls" of the left ventricle, which over time can prevent the heart from taking in or pumping out enough blood during each heartbeat to meet the body's needs.

The teen had previously showed no signs of having a heart condition, family members said.

Steve Bush said Robert had taken to football specifically as a way to improve his health and conditioning in recent years, along with frequent biking and walking.

Not an experienced or naturally gifted football player, Robert, who is a lineman, had made great strides to be a contributor to the varsity team this year, his brother said.

"He’s a shorter kid, so we always told him, ‘You’re like the Rudy …” Steve Bush said, comparing his younger brother, who is 5 foot 5 inches tall and 192 pounds, to the title character in the film about an undersized walk-on college football player at Notre Dame University.

Robert was adopted as a baby and is one of 10 siblings, ranging from 16 to 56, Steve Bush said. The family, he said, fostered more than 300 children during his lifetime, both on Long Island and previously when they lived in upstate Livingston County. 

Chris Bush, another older brother, said he effectively raised Robert and taught him how to play football. 

"He was always trying to get better and better because he was never a tall guy," said Bush, asking for the community's prayers. " … But he's got the motivation of 50 guys. He's always trying to make himself better."

Their mother, Patricia Bush, died of cancer in 2017, and their father, Robert Bush, is enduring his own serious medical issues, leaving the older siblings with the responsibility of raising the younger family members, Steve Bush said.

"[Robert has] really come a long way in the last two years with regards to his health, sports, wanting to be an entrepreneur and just wanting to be accepted," he said. " … He was just like all his older siblings. He wanted to get married. He wanted to have kids like all of us. So, as you can tell, knowing where he was in his life and how far he's taken it just in the last two years, it's killing us."

Members of the Selden community, meanwhile, have rallied around the Bush family.

LeeAnn Mazzillo. whose two children worked with Robert Bush at Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Selden, said she was so moved by the tragedy that she started a GoFundMe page to help offset the family's medical bills.

"The whole district is just broken up," Mazzillo said. "It could have been anybody's child because all of our kids play sports."

The intramural sports program is a sanctioned school district event where participants sign consent forms to play, according to Mendlinger.

Tom Combs, executive director of Section XI, which governs scholastic sports in Suffolk County, said the program does not fall under the umbrella of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. Summer sports programs do not have the same safety guidelines as a school district's in-season games and practices, officials said.

The State Education Department requires all high school athletes to undergo physicals, administered either by school officials or a private physician, before they can compete in sports. Scholastic coaches must also have valid first aid skills and certification in CPR and in using an automated external defibrillator.

Nassau and Suffolk require an AED to be accessible at any venue where high school athletics are played or practiced. Those requirements were implemented on Long Island in 2001, and statewide in 2002, after Louis Acompora, a Northport boys lacrosse player, died from a blow to the chest sustained in a game in 2000. 

A varsity football player suffered a "cardiac event" and is comatose and on life support after collapsing on the field at Newfield High School earlier this week, according to family members.

Robert Bush, 17, of Selden, was bending over during conditioning drills shortly after 5 p.m. Monday when he suddenly lost consciousness, according to Steve Bush of Georgia, one of the teen's older brothers. Robert had been outside for roughly four minutes during the school's intramural summer sports program when he collapsed, Middle Country Central School District officials said.

A football coach and team player each began CPR, according to detectives from the Suffolk County Police Department's Sixth Squad, who are investigating.

Another coach retrieved a defibrillator, used to revive someone from sudden cardiac arrest, according to district spokesman Jake Mendlinger. The coach used it on Bush before emergency medical teams arrived and rushed him to Stony Brook University Hospital, Mendlinger said.

Steve Bush said his brother was without proper blood and oxygen flow to the brain for at least 45 minutes and is now on life support.

"There's no more brain function," Bush told Newsday on Thursday. " … We are dealing with the end right now."

It was not immediately clear what caused Bush to collapse, but the family said they've been told he may have had a hereditary condition or a “thickening of the walls" of the left ventricle, which over time can prevent the heart from taking in or pumping out enough blood during each heartbeat to meet the body's needs.

The teen had previously showed no signs of having a heart condition, family members said.

Steve Bush said Robert had taken to football specifically as a way to improve his health and conditioning in recent years, along with frequent biking and walking.

Not an experienced or naturally gifted football player, Robert, who is a lineman, had made great strides to be a contributor to the varsity team this year, his brother said.

Robert Bush with his brothers. 

Robert Bush with his brothers.  Credit: The Bush Family

"He’s a shorter kid, so we always told him, ‘You’re like the Rudy …” Steve Bush said, comparing his younger brother, who is 5 foot 5 inches tall and 192 pounds, to the title character in the film about an undersized walk-on college football player at Notre Dame University.

Robert was adopted as a baby and is one of 10 siblings, ranging from 16 to 56, Steve Bush said. The family, he said, fostered more than 300 children during his lifetime, both on Long Island and previously when they lived in upstate Livingston County. 

Chris Bush, another older brother, said he effectively raised Robert and taught him how to play football. 

"He was always trying to get better and better because he was never a tall guy," said Bush, asking for the community's prayers. " … But he's got the motivation of 50 guys. He's always trying to make himself better."

Their mother, Patricia Bush, died of cancer in 2017, and their father, Robert Bush, is enduring his own serious medical issues, leaving the older siblings with the responsibility of raising the younger family members, Steve Bush said.

"[Robert has] really come a long way in the last two years with regards to his health, sports, wanting to be an entrepreneur and just wanting to be accepted," he said. " … He was just like all his older siblings. He wanted to get married. He wanted to have kids like all of us. So, as you can tell, knowing where he was in his life and how far he's taken it just in the last two years, it's killing us."

Robert Bush's Newfield High School football teammates and his father,...

Robert Bush's Newfield High School football teammates and his father, also named Robert Bush, at the hospital on Thursday. Credit: Bush family

Members of the Selden community, meanwhile, have rallied around the Bush family.

LeeAnn Mazzillo. whose two children worked with Robert Bush at Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Selden, said she was so moved by the tragedy that she started a GoFundMe page to help offset the family's medical bills.

"The whole district is just broken up," Mazzillo said. "It could have been anybody's child because all of our kids play sports."

The intramural sports program is a sanctioned school district event where participants sign consent forms to play, according to Mendlinger.

Tom Combs, executive director of Section XI, which governs scholastic sports in Suffolk County, said the program does not fall under the umbrella of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. Summer sports programs do not have the same safety guidelines as a school district's in-season games and practices, officials said.

The State Education Department requires all high school athletes to undergo physicals, administered either by school officials or a private physician, before they can compete in sports. Scholastic coaches must also have valid first aid skills and certification in CPR and in using an automated external defibrillator.

Nassau and Suffolk require an AED to be accessible at any venue where high school athletics are played or practiced. Those requirements were implemented on Long Island in 2001, and statewide in 2002, after Louis Acompora, a Northport boys lacrosse player, died from a blow to the chest sustained in a game in 2000. 

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