Last fall, after finishing my senior season of football at Harding High School in St. Paul, the Minnesota Vikings selected me as one of eight Community Captains in the state. The honor recognizes outstanding performance on the field, in the classroom, and in the community. I was awarded a Vikings game ball, I got to appear on the field at a Vikings game, and I received a $1,000 check to donate to the charity of my choice.
Feeling fortunate to receive such flattering treatment, I couldn’t help but flash back to where I was just three years earlier. As a freshman, I was wrapping up my first season of varsity football and looking for a winter sport to help me stay in shape. My coach told me wrestling was a great way to get stronger, so I joined the team.
I began to really like the sport. I worked hard at practice. I wrestled junior varsity all year and went to a tournament in January. In my last match, during a move, I slipped and fell. My opponent followed, landing directly on my left arm. The impact broke both bones in my forearm.
I was taken to the Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare and Regions Hospital Level I Pediatric Trauma Center. Soon afterward, I had emergency surgery. Metal plates and screws were attached to my bones to help them heal.
During my surgery, the anesthesiologist noticed something on a monitor: an irregular heartbeat. I had an electrocardiogram and it turned out that what the anesthesiologist saw was a symptom of Wolff–Parkinson-White syndrome, a rare condition that causes rapid heart rates and can lead to future cardiac problems.
I went on to have an ablation, a surgical procedure to halt the unusual electrical activity in my body that was causing my rapid heartbeats. I also had two more surgeries to remove the plates from my arm.
Fast-forward back to this year. Upon hearing the news that the Vikings wanted to recognize me, I thought about what I’ve been through and where I am today. After my wrestling injury, I got the surgery I needed, and my anesthesiologist's attention to detail allowed me to address a heart condition that I wouldn’t have otherwise even known about. During my recovery at Gillette, I received excellent care from my nurses and physical therapist.
So, given an opportunity to contribute $1,000 to a worthy cause, I chose Gillette—because of how much this hospital did for me, and how much it does for all children.