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Stephen Tearoe

Because of a Basketball

In this day and age, some people believe that they are invincible; most notably of these  are kids, and teens. I had fit into this category quite snugly a while back, as most kids did, but I no longer consider myself part of that group. I experienced something that most people won’t in their entire lifetime, and that is a near-death experience. In my opinion, near-death experiences are good for the soul and mind; it can open one’s mind and change one’s perceptions of life, as it did to me.

Let me give you a little background to the story before I jump into my past ordeal. I have a heart condition called Prolonged QT syndrome, which basically means that it takes my heart longer to recharge between heartbeats than the average Joe. This is a problem when I exert myself a little too much; my heart cannot recharge fast enough, so it just stops. The majority of my family has this condition, including my brother.

Now my brother, let me tell you, is a great guy. He is two years older than me, and we can have a great time together, but we can also have an awful time. We had been having a difficult time together for a few weeks prior to my incident, and it all surrounded this basketball. As I look back, I laugh at how we handled the argument. Our parents had given to us a bright yellow basketball designed to look like the Wal-Mart Smiley Face. Both of us loved that basketball, and both of us wanted to use the basketball during the school recess, so we took matters into our own hands. After most recesses, we would steal the ball away from each other so as to guarantee that we would get the basketball next recess, and the other brother would always be mad and run after the other.

This leads back to when all the magic happened. It was way back in 2006, end of March, or early April (I forget the exact details). It was a little chilly that day, but mostly sunny with few clouds. I was wearing a light shell and jeans. Recess had just ended and everyone was heading back inside the school. My brother, the genius that he was, took this chance to steal our basketball away from me. I got ticked at him, adrenaline started pumping, and I sprinted after him. After just a few steps I felt something weird inside me. There was a deep pressure on my chest – I couldn’t breathe.

I stopped running, trying to slow my heart down and undo what I had started. My vision went black. My mind felt numb, and it felt like I went to sleep. I woke up lying down on the ground to three or four teachers stooped over me and nobody else anywhere. There had been at least 100 or more kids outside a minute ago.

I’m thinking, "What the **** happened?”

What had happened was my heart couldn’t keep up with the sudden change from quietly strolling to a blood-boiling adrenaline filled full-out sprint. I had had an episode of some attackacatia arrhythmia or some such word, meaning my heart couldn’t handle the stress so it just reset itself. I was lucky that my heart started beating again, else I could have died. I could have died! My doctors scheduled me for surgery within the week. I drove to Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital, had a defibrillator implanted inside me, then drove back to Kelowna. I was so out of it that whole week that it hasn’t really sunk in until now, and looking back, how tremendous and life-changing it had been for me.

Since that day I have not been the same, in my opinion. Now I am more interested in the now than the future, I take more risks, speak when not spoken to (in the most professional way, of course). I am optimistic, and I am happy. I have accepted that life throws you curve-balls and you can die like that. I have accepted that I could be playing a sport and suddenly drop dead because my heart gave way, and I am fine with that. I can talk about my death without getting all nervous and awkward. I am more relaxed and take life as it hits me. I feel happy. As I think back, I laugh at how this all had happened to me; I ran after my brother because of a bright yellow basketball.
Submitted by:Stephen Tearoe
February, 2011

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