GREENWOOD, Ind. (WISH) — After two months of unanswered questions, a Greenwood family finally knows what caused their teenage son’s death, just two days after News 8 took their concerns to the county coroner.
News 8 met family and friends of 15-year-old Ryan Latham at his August memorial and has been keeping in touch with the family ever since.
Thursday marked two months since the Whiteland Community High School student and football player died in his sleep. Until this week, Ryan’s cause and manner of death were both labeled as undetermined by the Johnson County Coroner’s Office.
Steve and Carol Latham say in the days after their son’s death, they never heard from the coroner and were left wondering what happened to their son, who they thought was healthy. That’s when they reached out to News 8’s Jenny Dreasler.
At first, his parents thought Ryan could have died from a blood clot, so they had an autopsy done. Eight weeks passed and the coroner didn’t return their calls.
On Tuesday, answers came from the funeral director. Ryan’s death certificate listed his cause of death as undetermined. His manner of death was also undetermined.
Less than 24 hours after Dreasler called the coroner herself, he updated the certificate, and the Lathams learned what killed their son.
“Honestly, with your (Jenny’s) help, we got our answers. I really feel like he (Ryan) had a sense of play in it yesterday. Where he could see we were done and he sent an amazing person like you to help us. You don’t understand the gratitude that we have. It’s tremendous,” said Steve Latham.
But the answer has left them with even more worries: Ryan died from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a rare genetic disease.
“Last night he came over, and he said the pathologist put the slides next to each other from someone else who died very similarly and Ryan, and the slides looked exactly alike,” said Carol Latham.
The Lathams now have an amended autopsy report, the undetermined cause and manner of death changed to natural causes. But their son’s cause of death has become an unwelcome part of their new vocabulary.
“The walls of your heart, the muscles grow thicker and they get harder and then your heart can’t beat correctly. It’s a genetic problem,” said Carol Latham.
Because it’s genetic, Ryan’s little brother, 11-year-old Renny, is going to be tested along with the rest of the Latham family.
“It’s a big scare, of what it is, but it’s also a sense of relief because now we know what we’re fighting. At least when you know what you’re fighting and you can see it to us as a family, we can move forward with it,” said Steve Latham.
HCM is hard to detect and only found through genetic testing or a cardiac MRI.
Maybe it’s mother intuition, but Carol Latham told News 8 that she had a feeling, while doing research after Ryan died, that HCM could have taken her son’s life.
The Lathams told News 8 that Ryan’s tissue samples will be genetically tested at Riley Hospital for Children in the coming weeks to determine which family members could also be at risk.