Friday , Jul , 22 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Ronny Turiaf to undergo open-heart surgery

Los Angeles Lakers second round draft pick Ronny Turiaf will undergo open-heart surgery to repair an enlarged heart and will miss the entire 2005-06 campaign, if not more.

The procedure will likely be performed in the next four-to-six weeks.

Turiaf, who was taken with the 37th overall selection in this past June’s draft by the Lakers, was diagnosed with an enlarged aortic root by team doctors following extensive testing after he signed a two-year deal which was contingent upon him passing a physical.

“I was made aware of an abnormality with my heart during my physical exam in Chicago at the pre-draft camp, as well as in an exam in France,” Turiaf said. “However, both doctors in Chicago and France cleared me medically to play and I looked forward to the draft and a career as an NBA player. With this latest information coming to light, I am naturally disappointed that my dream of playing in the NBA will not come true, at least for the time being. I am also anxious and a bit scared about having to undergo this surgery.

“In looking at the big picture, however, I feel lucky and grateful that this condition was discovered by the Lakers’ doctors when it was, as this is a potentially fatal condition,” Turiaf added.

“Finally, I am optimistic and hopeful that things will go well and I will be able to lead a healthy, normal life, and eventually that I will again be able to pursue my dream of playing in the NBA.”

The aortic root is the beginning part of the aorta, which is the body’s largest artery and carries oxygenated blood to all parts of the body. The diameter of Turiaf’s aorta is 5.6 centimeters – 50-percent larger than normal.

One of Turiaf’s attending physicians told the Los Angeles Times that there was a 75-percent chance that the condition could turn fatal within a three-to four-year period.

“The usual way it might present itself is with a person bleeding, collapsing to the floor and dying,” cardiologist Howard Staniloff told the paper. “When it comes on, if it ruptures, the chances of people surviving that is small. By identifying it now before there’s a hole in it, they can plan for it and do the surgery in a controlled way and fix it.”

As a senior with Gonzaga last season, the 6-10 Turiaf was named West Coast Conference Player of the Year after he averaged 15.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.9 blocked shots.

The 22-year-old Turiaf, who grew up in the Caribbean, ranks fourth all-time on Gonzaga’s all-time scoring (1,723 points) and rebound (859) lists. He also ranks second in career blocks (179) and finished his collegiate career as Gonzaga’s all-time leader in free throws made (643).

Turiaf was the Lakers second pick after they selected 17-year-old high school center Andrew Bynum with the 10th overall selection.