Purpose of the BLOG: To the readers of this blog, I feel it is important to explain why I started this blog. This reason can be explained by hearing my story, and what would soon happen to me, would bring my life to a crashing halt.
My Story: It was the Spring of 2010, and I was a sophomore at Homestead High School trying out for the track team. The season got off to a great start and I met a great coach and mentor who I knew was going to make me the best runner I could be. To this day, this coach, Todd Brawner, is someone that I respect immensely. Soon after the season started, my times were improving such that there was a great chance I would be on the 400 relay team that Homestead was sending to the State championship meet.
During one practice, we finished off the week working out in the school pool and everything seemed normal. As I was exercising in the water, I started getting a cramp in my foot, which was common for me. I thought it would be best if I got out of the pool to deal with the cramp. I got out and laid at pools edge, when I started feeling very faint. I really don’t remember anything after that, what I do remember is waking up to the coaching staff, police, and paramedics over me, discussing my situation.
As it turned out, I lost consciousness and was resuscitated by the swimming coach, Mark Gwidt. I was then put into the ambulance and taken to a local hospital. It was recommended that I see a pediatric heart doctor to find out what caused my issue. This part of my story, to this day, is extremely hard for me to talk about. I will never forget the next 6 hours.
It was in these hours that I would go down the hall for an echocardiogram and get the results that would soon bring my world crashing down. After the “echo,” we met back in my doctors office and he read the results to me, my Mom, and my Dad. The results of the test, he said, were not good. "You, Stephen, have a problem with your heart, and you need to have open-heart surgery as soon as possible." I could not believe what I heard... I must have heard if wrong... There is no way this could be true because I feel great! Well, needless to say, the realization hit me quick and hard. I was done with sports and what I had heard was true. I, at the age of 16, was going to have open-heart surgery. It was this, or live a life of having a potential heart stoppage at any time without warning!
My school year came to a quick close, my surgery would be performed within 30 days. The surgery went great! I was up and running within 60 days, and I was at a football camp at the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University within 75 days. I could not believe that this was possible. To this day, I am in awe of the men and the machines that saved my life.
That was my story. And again, the purpose of this blog is to do the following:
to help kids get through the tough times, not just surgeries, but any news that affects them in profound ways.
to motivate any athlete who needs to recover from surgery.
to educate everyone about EKG’s and echocardiograms.
to convince young athletes to listen to the “signs.”
to be an example of the fact that there is hope, and a future, after surgeries.
to convince communities and athletic programs to perform tests on athletes.
Childrens Hospital of Wisconsin, and all of its incredible staff
Dr. Peter Bartz
My sister, Natasha
My Track Coach, Todd Brawner
Lastly, my unbelievable friends, way too many to mention!