Taking a break from bowling at Bowlmor Lanes in Melville Sunday, Brianna Watt recalled the moment nearly four years ago that she witnessed Catherine O’Malley-Moriarty collapse on a field at Babylon High School.
It was March, 8, 2010, the first day of tryouts for Babylon’s varsity girls lacrosse team.
“The coach was explaining something, no one was even moving, but then, all of sudden, she was down,” said Watt, now 21, of Babylon.
O’Malley-Moriarty, then 17, had gone into idiopathic sudden cardiac arrest, which resulted in a hypoxic brain injury, according to Patric McQuade, a physical therapist who has been treating her for more than two years as she works to regain her speech and other basic functional skills.
“She had basically a lack of oxygen to her brain, because of a lack of circulation, and the brain needs oxygen for the brain cells to survive,” McQuade said.
Watt and McQuade were among more than 250 people who filled the bowling alley Sunday for a fundraiser to support O’Malley-Moriarty’s recovery efforts.
The event, hosted by O’Malley-Moriarty’s family, featured two hours of bowling and the raffling of 150 prizes.
Members of Babylon High School’s student council, as well as recent Babylon alums, pitched in by selling raffle tickets and T-shirts and bracelets sporting “SSCA” for “Stay Strong Catherine Ann” and her jersey number, 52.
Thanks to a fundraiser O’Malley-Moriarty’s friends held in April 2011, her family was able to purchase state-of-art therapy equipment and turn the first floor of their home into a rehab center. The goal of Sunday’s benefit was to raise money to pay for continued treatment by a team of therapists, who are featured in this YouTube video created by O'Malley-Moriarty's family.
“Therapy runs about $500 a day at our house and we do it five times a week,” said Catherine’s sister, Meghan O’Malley-Moriarty, 25, of Babylon.
She said about 80 percent of the therapists are provided by the Babylon School District, but since Catherine is turning 21 this March, she’s going to “age out” of the system and lose this care at the end of the school year in June.
“We’re really trying to get as much money as we possibly can, because we don’t know how long Cat needs care for,” she said, adding that the family has also set up a fundraising campaign at gofundme.com/CatherineAnn.
Shannon O’Malley-Moriarty, 23, said she’s already witnessed her younger sister make great strides.
“Our first year, we kept a journal counting the number of minutes Catherine could open her eyes,” she said. “Now, we have a picture of us sitting up together, and we’re working on walking and talking and standing.”
McQuade said O’Malley-Moriarty works very hard, and her family is committed to seeing her flourish.
Shannon O’Malley-Moriarty added, “We fully believe Cat’s going to regain everything. It’s just a matter of time.”