DENVER, Colo. – Broncos star wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was found dead in a bedroom shower by police Thursday night after a 911 call was placed “in reference to a cardiac arrest,” according to a police report obtained by Nexstar’s KDVR.
Police found Thomas around 7 p.m. following a 911 call from a man who was not identified as a resident in Thomas’ home.
Police were notified by dispatch that Thomas was “not conscious and not breathing.” When officers arrived, they had to push a gate open in order to enter the home.
Once officers made entry into the home, they found Thomas laying down in the shower on his back. The report says he had clear signs of rigor mortis, indicating that he had died.
LaTonya Bonseigneur, a first cousin who grew up with Thomas, told The Associated Press the family believes he died from a seizure.
“He had been suffering from seizures for over a year, and we believe he had a seizure when he was showering,” Bonseigneur said in a telephone interview with AP. “He was alone and a friend couldn’t get hold of him, so he called his driver, who has a key because of these seizures, and he went into his home and found him in the shower.”
A full report from a medical examiner has not yet been released.
Neurosurgeon, a specialist in seizures, weighs in
“It was a terrible and tragic surprise,” said Dr. Matthew Mian a neurosurgeon with Swedish Medical Center in Colorado.
Mian specializes in epilepsy, which is repeated, unprovoked seizures. He said it affects about 1% of all people, and it can happen at any age.
“I think one of the challenges with epilepsy is we don’t always know who is suffering, and in some ways, it can be an invisible disorder,” he said.
Thomas had a huge impact on and off the football field, and some in the medical world say he will continue to make a difference.
“The thing I struggle with as a neurosurgeon is that although there are millions of people affected by epilepsy in the United States, many times, patients don’t seek out treatment. The silver lining for terrible events like this is it raises awareness about this disease and there are in fact treatments for this disease,” Mian said.
Thomas’ death came nearly three years after a rollover crash. His injuries at the time were described as minor. Some wonder if his seizures could be connected.
“We do think traumatic brain injuries, of which concussions are one example, are certainly a risk factor for epilepsy and can be directly linked to epilepsy. All sorts of things can cause seizures: head injuries, tumors, sometimes congenital conditions people are born with, but a seizure itself is like an electrical firestorm that spreads across the surface of the brain,” Mian said.
But doctors say there is hope for people suffering from seizures and epilepsy.
“It’s very important to emphasize seizures are very treatable and in some cases can even be cured,” Mian said.
It is unclear what treatment Thomas might have gotten, but seizures and epilepsy can be treated with medication or surgery.
The Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado is a great resource for more information or if you are interested in volunteering or donating to their research efforts.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.