Between the Hedges

The University of South Carolina plays the University of Georgia Saturday afternoon. I don’t like to think about Georgia. Yes, I am a Gamecock fan, but that’s not the reason.

We didn’t have a football team my first two years in college. Late in my Sophomore year, we decided to put together a football team, and in my senior year we traveled to Georgia to play the Bulldogs.

Now you need to understand that this was Club Football, not a varsity program. They called it Club Football because it wasn’t officially a part of the Athletic Department, but was funded through student fees. It was a “club”, much like a fraternity or the French Club. Only this club had official school permission to put on pads and helmets and bust heads. We didn’t play the #2 in the nation Georgia Bulldogs. Nor did we play the Junior Varsity. Shoot, we didn’t even play the 3rd string, the practice squad, or even the waterboys. We played the guys below that.

So I got a job with the team as the Statistician and I traveled with the team, keeping the official statistics. I would have loved to have gotten on the field for a play or two, but my heart wasn’t built for it. Not only that, I had never played full speed contact football in my life… those guys would kill me! Our team manager – all five foot three of him – did talk the coaches into letting him suit up and hold the ball on an extra point, but I never even did that. It would be just my luck that would be the one play when the other team would block the kick, tie our kicker into a pretzel, and step on my head. So I played it safe.

The day came in my Senior year that we were to travel to Athens to play the Bulldogs. We were surprised to learn that we would actually be playing in Sanford Stadium! A trip to play Clemson earlier that year had been a major disappointment when we fould out that we would not be playing in Death Valley, but in the hard dirt parking lot! Our guys and the Clemson players had to walk the length of the “field” before the game, looking for rocks, pop-tops, and any other dangerous items. At least their Club Football team wore the orange pants. Let the record state that WE were the first team to beat Clemson when their football team wore the orange pants!

I left the locker room and walked onto the field, where I was met by Georgia’s Statistician. He told me that it was about time to head up to the press box and get ready. My “press box” back home was the top of a panel truck, so I was looking forward to seeing what the facilities of a Major College Football Program really looked like. Suddenly, I realized this guy was heading for the bleachers.

“How do we get up there?” I asked.

“Go up the steps to the Club Level and the security guard will let us into the press box,” came the reply. “There’s an escalator there.”

Oh, boy. If you think Sanford Stadium looks big from the TV shot taken from the blimp, try standing on the field looking up at the press box.

“You guys got an elevator to the Club Level?”

“Yeah, but the stadium itself is closed. This is the only way we can get in.”

So we started climbing. Football bleachers are a lot like steps, and I don’t do so well on steps. Before long, my heart is pumping, my lungs are heaving, and my stomach is churning.

“Hey, hold on a minute, I gotta re -” I never finished the sentence, because right then I sat down hard and threw up.

“You OK?” The Georgia guy asked, but you could tell by the tone of his voice that he was pretty disappointed that I had just befouled his stadium. I was a bit disappointed myself, especially since my heart was still freaking out.

The security guard appeared, apparently summoned by the Stats guy. He took one look at me and called his boss, who called our team co-ordinator. The Co-ordinator helped me back down the bleachers — I was closer to the top, but it is much easier to go down than it is to go up – and to a waiting car. The car, driven by a University of Georgia Employee, took me to the nearest hospital.

I went over everything with the ER doc, but apparently the words “Congenital Heart Defect” and “Tricuspid Atresia” just didn’t register with him. That changed the moment he looked at my X-Ray. He didn’t say a word, but he looked at the X-Ray, looked at me, back at the X-Ray, and his jaw dropped.

The rest of the story is non eventful. After a half a dozen tests to make sure I was really OK, and a discussion with the hospital’s Chief of Cardiology and every intern he could find (“I hope you don’t mind, we see patients like you once a year.”) they told me I had just overdone it, warned me to be careful, and sent me back to the stadium. I got there just as the clock ran out. We lost 17-0.

It was my own fault I got into trouble and wound up in the hospital. I should have known better than to attempt to climb the steps, or I should have listened to my body and stopped and rested. But I let the “oh, wow!” moment get to me and I didn’t think. You can’t do that. With a heart defect, you always have to think about what you are doing.

I also learned that day to keep a copy of my relevant medical records with me at all times. I used to carry a small folder with exam notes and EKG results; now the folder has been replaced by a USB Drive clipped to my belt. I also carry the Adult Congenital Heart Association’s Health Passport in my back pocket, and I wear a MedicAlert bracelet. You have to consider who will speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself. (The ACHA’s Health Passport is free, but you must be a member to receive one. Membership in the ACHA is also free!)

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4 Responses to “Between the Hedges”

  1. Vanessa Says:


    I am not even how I came across your website. I know it was from another CHD blog cause my daugther was born with TOF and I keep up with other CHD kids. I have to say you are the first adult CHD blog I’ve come across and after spending the afternoon reading your blog I just wanted to tell you thank you. Thank you for allowing us heart parents to take a look inside your life as a CHD survivor. My daughter is 21 months old and you have given me such hope! I would love to keep up with you but I need to know one thing….what is your name? 🙂

    I have our blog set to private so if you email me and tell me who you are I will send you a blog invite…if you would like.

    Heart hugs,

    Vanessa (Arianna’s mom)

  2. debbrn Says:

    I went to UGA. I even did clinicals at Athens Regional. I can’t imagine what they were thinking when you walked in the door. Go Dawgs!!!!!!

  3. Steve Says:

    You got us this year, but it was a good game. After we blew the Vanderbilt game I wasn’t sure what to expect.

    We’ll try again next year! 🙂

  4. Like a Rock « Adventures of a Funky Heart! Says:

    […] college in 1988, I was like a rock. I only had one problem with my heart that I can recall (and I did that to myself). I went into the hospital overnight for a Catherization but that was after I decided to have […]

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