Tag Archives: Personal

From Routine to OMG!

 

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Life shifts can happen at any time. The key is to have a plan of attack no matter what the challenge.

May 8, 2015    Arielle has a routine primary care appointment to get a referral for the podiatrist. During the routine evaluation, the primary care provider (PCP) begins to think that Arielle is exhibiting signs of Marfan Syndrome. Marfan syndrome is what caused Isaiah Austin, the Baylor basketball star, to withdraw from the NBA draft in 2014.   The PCP requests some tests: x-rays for spinal deformity, genetics referral, and an EKG to check for the cardiac component of Marfan Syndrome. The appointment ends and life goes on.

Shortly after Arielle’s EKG, I receive a call from the Pediatric department to set up an appointment with the pediatric cardiologist. I am instantly concerned because I think of all the things going on in the next few weeks. Arielle is the TX-5A Region 1 Champ in both the Long and Triple jump and is heading to Austin for the first time ever to compete in the State track meet. She has goals and plans for her future in athletics at the college level. Coaches are jockeying for position to get her attention in both volleyball and track. I didn’t want her plans for athletics to be derailed by Marfan like Isaiah’s. I set the appointment and decided to wait to tell Arielle later so that she wouldn’t worry.

Arielle’s track season takes off like a shot. She goes to state and takes 2nd place in the Triple Jump. She is invited to compete in the Great Southwest Outdoor Track & Field Meet in June. She qualifies to go to the USATF World Youth Trials in Chicago for a chance to compete for Team USA in the IAAF World Youth Championships. She is oblivious to the fact that she has a cardiac appointment in a month.

The appointment weighs on me heavily, however. What if she has the cardiac component of Marfan Syndrome? With that diagnosis her entire sports career is over. It’s high risk for sudden death that makes her untouchable by any D-1 school athletic program. No track, no volleyball, no nothing. How do you tell your child that she can no longer compete collegiately as she had planned? It is sheer agony.

Every time I get up the nerve to tell Arielle about this cardiology appointment some other great event happens. Right after she qualifies for the youth trials in track, she receives an email saying that she made the high performance volleyball team for the region. It is quite an honor to make this team. She’s excited and I am deflated because now is still not a good time to tell her.

While preparing for the Border championships for summer track, Arielle is notified that she is El Paso Female Track athlete of the year! It’s another reason to be excited and STILL not a good time to tell her about the cardiology appointment.

Finally, I tell Arielle about her cardiologist appointment once we return from World Youth Trials on July 2, 2015. The appointment with the cardiologist is July 9, 2015. She instantly asks if something is wrong with her heart. I say no, that they just want to be sure. Being ever the optimist, I even scheduled her school sports physical for the same day. I was so sure the cardiologist wasn’t going to find anything and she would be cleared on her physical to start volleyball practices.

That was my plan. The universe, however, was not cooperating.

July 9, 2015. Appointment Day we go to Arielle’s appointment and the first thing they do is take another EKG for Dr. Black, the cardiologist. And we wait…and silently pray…and awkwardly try to act like everything is fine. Dr. Black comes in and tells us that Arielle does not have Marfan’s. Whew! Then comes the but…but she does have Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW). What in the world is that? He immediately calls us to a place of calm and begins to explain what WPW is and what it entails.

WPW is a syndrome where an alternate pathway develops in the heart in utero.  Normally, the electricity goes through one designated pathway and is slowed down prior to entering the different chambers of the heart, so that the heart pumps properly. This alternate pathway allows the electricity to pass through the heart without being slowed down at all. This unchecked electricity can cause irregular heartbeat, atrial fibrillation, and sudden death with high intensity cardiac events…like sports!

WHAT?!? Arielle and I both begin to pepper Dr. Black with information and questions. She has USATF Junior Olympic Nationals coming up, what does WPW mean for that? Volleyball season is coming up, how long will she be out of commission.  What about this, how does that play out with that? I am feeling frantic and so is Arielle.

Dr. Black immediately reassures us that WPW is totally fixable and that she should be able to continue with her sports career once it is fixed. But…

But?!? Another but. But what? I did not realize that I was holding my breath until I started feeling light-headed. This was a lot to take and we had plans and finances tied up in Arielle going to Jacksonville to compete in the Junior Olympic Nationals. This was her year of redemption etc. However, Arielle’s health was most important. We both knew that and wanted to convey that to Dr. Black.

Dr. Black listened patiently to our concerns and told us that Arielle was not allowed to do any competitive athletics until her heart diagnostics were confirmed. There was a possibility that with high intensity work-outs that the alternate pathway could possibly automatically shut itself down once the heart rate was raised to 150+ beats per minute. But in order to determine that Arielle needed to get a Holter monitor and do a stress test to get the diagnostics.

A plan is then mapped out a plan to get things moving as quickly as possible in light of our plans for Jacksonville. He needed Arielle to wear a Holter monitor to track her heartbeat for 24 hours. Once the diagnostics were received he would know how to proceed. If the alternate pathway shut itself down during high intensity workouts, then she is out of the woods and can continue as normal. That was definitely my hope because I really want her to be OK and to not have her season derailed.

No such luck. Arielle wore the monitor during two track practices, played Just Dance on X-Box, and went roller skating. The results showed that her heart rate during exertion got up to 170+ beats per minute and the pathway did not shut itself down. So we had to prepare for the next procedure which was an electro-physiology study and cardiac ablation. It is not open heart surgery but anything dealing with the heart is always of major concern.

Arielle and I had a talk in light of this new development and decided that she would compete in Junior Olympic Nationals in spite of the diagnosis. The thought process was that she had competed this long with WPW not knowing that she had it and this was her last track event of the season. We would finish the season and then deal with the WPW.

This response was made not from a place of panic but it was calmly discussed and all of the possibilities analyzed. From an early age in sports, we have always taught Arielle to know what her priorities are before entering into any venture. This makes the decision making process more streamlined and easy to navigate. If you don’t know the priority, then any challenge can likely throw you off course. We know that “track is life” and we were going to see this great season through to the end.

While at the Junior Olympic Nationals, it was very scary for me to sit and watch her compete. I generally enjoy watching Arielle get all intense with the competition. I generally encourage her to push herself to her very limits. This time, though, it was a little different. Although I wanted her to make All-American and do really well, I had this growing apprehension of “What if…?” I watched her compete and put on a brave face, but it was one of the hardest things for me to ever do so far. When she finished both her events as an All-American, in spite of the WPW diagnosis, I could not have been prouder.

All-American at Junior Olympic Nationals were the final feathers in a great season’s cap. Arielle finished the 2015 track season as:

  • EPISD District Record Holder (Varsity) in Triple Jump (38’11.5”)
  • 5-A Region 1 Champion in Long Jump (18’7”) PR
  • 5-A Region 1 Champion Triple Jump (40’ 6”) PR and Burges High School record
  • TX State Silver Medalist in Triple Jump (40’ 3.75”)
  • Great Southwest Outdoor Triple-Jump 6th place finisher 2015
  • El Paso Times Female Track Athlete of the Year 2015
  • USATF World Youth Trials Competitor 2015
  • USATF Border Champion in Long Jump 2015 (5.57) Border Record for 15-16
  • USATF Border Champion in Triple Jump 2015 (11.93)Border Record for 15-16
  • USATF Junior Olympic Nationals All-American Long Jump 2015
  • USATF Junior Olympic Nationals All-American Triple Jump. 2015
  • Milesplit TX Female Track Athlete of the Year Nominee 2015

Now on to deal with this WPW.

Being Courted

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Being courted is an old-fashioned term used many years ago to mean dating with intent. Now what exactly is “dating with intent”? Well in order to define courting vs dating 2014, one must define dating as it stands in today’s society. Today dating does not mean the traditional meet for a movie or food with a person with whom you have a growing infatuation of affinity. No, dating today is what we used to term “I like you and you like me so we ‘go’ together.”

Courting, on the other hand, means dating with the intent to marry. Back in the day, a young man did not just show up, grab the girl, and take her away on a date. No indeed not. If you were considering yourself courting, you had intent to do right by the young lady. You showed up at the home, addressed the parents and made that intention known. The Father and Mother blessed the intention maybe, and made it clear that if you did not make good on your intent, it would not go well for you.

In the arena of recruiting there is a similar type of courting going on. The school looks at your child’s information, video, or sees them at a camp or performance and decides if they are a good fit for their program. Then they decide how much “courting” they are willing to do.

My daughter, Arielle, got a letter of interest yesterday from a college for track & field. Her Snapchat picture and the emoticons pretty much tell the story. She has just gotten a taste of what it feels like to be courted. She is now enamored with this school and is beginning to realize that this is not a drill. She will soon be in a position to have to make some hard decisions on how she wants her future to play out.

Because she is just a sophomore, there are some rules and regulations that college coaches must adhere to in the recruiting game. However, there are some things that they can say in the context of a “general” information letter that will clue you in on how much courting they want to do with your child.

Now it is up to you to determine if the level of courtship is to be reciprocated. You know what I mean…you remember the love letter that goes like this:

I like you a lot. Do you like me? Check the box Yes ☐ or No ☐

Once you get a letter courting your child, and you understand the level of the courtship, how do you determine which box to check? Or are you like Arielle was, infatuated and ready to sign on the dotted line?

I must admit that I was very excited as well to see the Snapchat post. My heart did kind of skip a beat and I was instantly infatuated. It feels good! You see that your child’s hard work is being recognized and that doors are beginning to open ever so slightly.

It is important that we as parents make sure we know what our children want in a school as well as what we want FROM the school in order to determine if they are a viable candidate for consideration. Information on the school is fine, but if we don’t know what we want from the school how do you know if the school meets the standard?

Many times, we as parents 1.   do not think about college until it is breathing down our necks. Then there are other parents who have instilled the college mindset into our kids but 2. have not embraced the dream of our kids in college for ourselves. And some still 3.  have a fear of the cost of college and because of that, they do not speak about it to their children for fear that they will be unable to pay for it. Others, still 4.  may not have had the traditional college experience and therefore they don’t push it for their children.

My college scenario is a combination of #1 and #3. I lived with my Aunt and Uncle and my Dad lived in Philadelphia. As long as I remembered I had talked about going to college. My route was going to be through academics not sports. I was smart, and got chosen to go to Engineering summer Camp two years in a row and won the Governor’s Energy Essay Contest for the 10th grade Division etc. However, no one seriously looked into the cost of college or really even considered it much. This was in the days before the internet, so everything you got from schools came via snail mail. I had schools sending me letters like crazy trying to get me to apply to their school. Don’t be fooled just because the NCAA offers a sliding scale for qualification, the better your ACT/SAT test scores the more opportunities open up for you academically.

I eventually applied and got into both of the top universities in South Carolina, University of South Carolina and Clemson University. I did everything required to make sure that my enrollment was assured and I prepared to go to college. About two weeks after high school graduation, my aunt comes to me and states that no one has considered how much it was going to cost to go to USC and so I will have to take the small scholarship offered by Francis Marion College and go there and stay at home with them instead.   Needless to say it was like a kick in the gut! Did they think college was free? Did they not know that I had wanted to go to college? I cried for 3 days straight, I wouldn’t eat, I wouldn’t leave my room. I was on a hunger strike! I was basically telling them that either I go to the college of my choice or die in that room. Yes the struggle was real and the tantrum was in full effect! Eventually, my Dad worked out the finances and along with a couple of student loans to supplement the shortfall, all I can say is Go ‘Cocks! Yes I graduated from the University of South Carolina.

The moral of the story is: Don’t make your kids pay for your lack of understanding. Do your homework, know your limitations and be prepared to help your child get the educational experience of a lifetime.