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Vickroy: Coroner says undetected heart defect caused college student’s death

AmandPuckett  |   Supplied photo

Amanda Puckett | Supplied photo

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Updated: November 26, 2013 6:26AM



So many young people push the envelope. They drink to excess, experiment with drugs, take life-endangering risks.

Amanda Puckett did none of that. She was, in fact, a model daughter, sister, friend and college student. Ask those who knew her and they will tell you about her enthusiasm, work ethic, devotion to her family and studies.

Amanda was going to be a professional musician, playing in a symphony orchestra one day. She was going to go into business with her younger sister and best friend, Maddie.

An undetected heart defect robbed her of that future.

Macon County Coroner Michael Day said the 19-year-old Orland Hills woman, who collapsed and died Aug. 25 in her dorm room at Millikin University in Decatur, had an “undiagnosed long-term cardiac condition.”

“Occasionally, you see these tragic things,” Day said. “Sometimes when a person is very young and unaware of any possible conditions, there is no apparent need for heavy diagnostics.”

So there was no way anyone could have anticipated such an outcome, he said.

The news hit Amanda’s parents hard.

“It’s good and bad,” Debbie Puckett said. “We’re relieved that no one brought harm to her. It’s just hard to believe she had a condition. You try so hard to protect your child.”

Amanda, a music performance major at Millikin, played in the Andrew High School band all four years. She served as a section leader and graduated with the coveted John Philip Sousa Award. She also was a member of the school’s orchestra and choir.

Her love of music earned her the respect of those in the music community, but it was her love for life that endeared her to just about everyone she met. Teachers who never had her in their classes at Fernway Elementary School in Orland Park came to her services.

As shocking as unexpected death is, Day said it’s not unusual for his office to call for extensive testing in determining the cause.

“We handle 700 to 800 cases a year,” he said. “In a significant percentage of them we have to pursue extensive testing.”

In the case of Amanda, he said, “this is very tragic. It was very sudden. A very sad set of circumstances. She was a nice young lady off at college with no indications of anything problematic.”

Debbie and Mike Puckett say their hearts go out to the family of Abigail Bott, a freshman from Clarendon Hills who was attending Indiana University. She died in her sleep Oct. 6. Autopsy results are pending in that case.

“I pray for that family,” Debbie said. “I hope they get answers. It’s a horrible thing to lose your child.”

In addition to her parents and sister, Amanda leaves behind two brothers, Mike and Tim, as well as many extended family members and friends.



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