Archive for Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Heart condition nearly kept BSHS junior from athletic career

July 3, 2007

In March of 2005, as Luke Terrell was nearing the end of his eighth grade year, he faced something that no young man should ever be asked to face -- the end of his athletic career.

Diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia, a condition in which the heart produces electricity in areas it's not supposed to, Luke stared straight into the face of moving on to high school without sports in his life.

Sure he could watch them on television, play them on video game systems or even attend sporting events with his family. But never suiting up again would have been a big blow for this sports junkie.

"I'll be honest," Luke said. "I was really torn up about that. It brought me to tears."

Thanks to the efforts of his family, as well as a host of doctors, Luke's story has a happy ending. Today, as a junior-to-be at Bonner Springs High School, he is coming into his own as a three-sport participant in football, basketball and baseball. His coaches in all three sports have recognized that he has the ability to become a key member of their teams next season.

As he spends the summer playing baseball while keeping part of his mind fixed on the upcoming high school football season, Terrell has made quite a name for himself on the diamond.

"He loves baseball, basketball and football," BSHS baseball coach Rick Moulin said. "And there was a real possibility that he wouldn't be able to do any of it. But he got full clearance from the doctors and once he came back, he came back with a whole different attitude. He started swinging the bat better and he was throwing better, too. He became one of our better players down the stretch. This summer, he's been one of our best pitchers."

But Luke's future didn't always look so bright.

The first signs of trouble

Luke's heart condition first showed up during the first game of his eighth-grade football season. As he took the field as his team's quarterback, Luke had an attack in the huddle.

The episode was marked by trouble breathing, lost color in his face and a heartbeat that was nearly pounding out of his chest.

It lasted just a few minutes and by the time his mother, Lisa, a counselor at BSHS, was able to make her way to the field, her son had calmed down.

Despite the fact that he was able to finish the game -- and the season -- Lisa knew the incident was something serious and decided to have her son checked out.

"I guess it was mother's intuition, really," Lisa said. "We kind of suspected something was going on in second or third grade but we weren't real sure."

At that early age, Luke occasionally complained about chest pains. That, coupled with the football incident and a family history of heart problems, brought the condition to the forefront.

Just before Christmas in 2004, moments after completing 10 laps around the gym to get warmed up for a basketball game, Luke had another attack.

"I remember it well," he said. "I had just finished my laps and my heart started beating really fast. I got really hot and I couldn't calm down. It was awful."

The repeat incident during basketball season inspired Luke's family to act.

A scary diagnosis

In the days that followed the second incident, Luke traveled to Children's Mercy Hospital, where he underwent a series of tests to diagnose the problem.

Included among these tests were a heart biopsy, an electric mapping of the heart activity and two shots of adrenaline pumped into the heart to see how it reacted. On both occasions, the adrenaline instantly sent Luke's heart rate above 300 beats-per-minute, more than three times that of a normal heart rate.

The tests helped doctors diagnose Luke with supraventricular tachycardia and, for the first time, gave the family an idea of what it would take to fix his heart.

"Instead of doing a figure-8 like it should, the (electrical current) in Luke's heart just did a circle," Lisa said. "If we didn't do something, and Luke continued to play sports, he could've dropped dead on the field at any time."

With that in mind, the family became determined to overcome the obstacle and, on March 23, 2005, Luke underwent an eight-hour surgery to burn some of the tissue in his heart providing a proper path for the electricity to follow.

The surgery was major and came with considerable risks that included the possibility of Luke wearing a defibrillator or pacemaker for the rest of his life as well as the continued possibility that he may not play sports again.

"As a family, we knew if that was the outcome he could pick up golf and we'd all become golfers," Lisa said. "We knew there were some risks but it was a no-brainer -- we had no choice."

Luke was involved with most of the decision-making about what to do with his heart but only followed a limited amount of the discussion because of the complicated medical terms and procedures that were tossed around.

"It was pretty much over my head," he said. "I didn't understand what they were saying, I just knew my heart was beating too fast and that we had to fix it."

Back on the field

Luke came through the surgery with flying colors. In fact, recovery wasn't that much of a challenge. Just five days after surgery, Luke was back playing sports again.

"I felt fine," he said. "Sometimes I think, 'Wow, what if.' (Not being able to play sports again) would've ruined my life. But I try not to think about it. I took sports for granted before it all happened but not anymore. They're everything for me now. And I'm glad they're there."

Luke still visits an electro-physiologist every year and has had no setbacks since the surgery. Although she admits that it was stressful to go through the worrying and fears that came with Luke's heart problems, Lisa considers the timing to be a blessing.

"In retrospect, it was good timing that it happened before he got to high school because he had looked forward to his high athletic career his whole life."

During his freshman and sophomore football and basketball seasons Luke played with the Braves' Junior Varsity squads. After spending his freshman year on the JV baseball team as well, Luke jumped up to the varsity squad this spring and figures to remain with the varsity for the next two seasons.

As if the heart condition wasn't trouble enough, Luke was forced to the dugout for a handful of baseball games because of a broken wrist. The small roadblock only delayed his coming out party. After working hard to get back into shape, Luke came on strong in the final weeks of the Braves' baseball season. This summer, he picked up where he left off and is currently one of the top all-around players on his summer team, which is coached by his dad, David.

In 13 games, Luke is 3-0 on the mound with a 1.38 earned run average. He also has 34 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched and has given up a total of eight hits and six earned runs.

At the plate, he's been equally as impressive, raking for an average of .372 and 11 RBIs.

"He's our go-to guy on the mound right now," Moulin said. "He's having a great summer. He's such a versatile player and he's filling in wherever we need him.

"Luke is the kind of kid you love to coach," Moulin continued. "He gives you everything he's got every time out and, ironically enough, he's got a lot of heart."

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