It Takes Heart

Junior Darrell Stewart has a heart syndrome, but continues to play basketball

Caleb Walker, Writer

When you first thinks of characteristics of a varsity basketball player, ideas such as height, strength, speed and leaping ability may come to mind. A genetic heart syndrome however might not make the list.

Junior Darrell Stewart is a towering 6 feet 3 inches tall with a standing explosive vertical of 42 inches.  Stewart’s most unique attribute on the court is something that cannot be viewed with the human eye.  Stewart was diagnosed two years ago with a heart condition known as Long Q3 Syndrome.  The condition causes his heart to be “off rhythm.”  After the diagnosis, Stewart had surgery in order to put in a defibrillator.

Stewart is not the only one to have heart conditions in his family.  Two members of his family have passed away because of similar heart conditions.  This specific syndrome requires appointments with a cardiologist every six months.

The defibrillator acts as a safety net in case his heart rate reaches a dangerous level.  Safety precautions have been taken in order to put Stewart in the safest environment as possible.

“If it gets to a certain level then you get shocked which of course we don’t want it to get to that level,” Ryan Darst, boy’s varsity head coach, said.  “We monitor his heart at all times during practice and games,”

The school administration has also partnered with the coaching staff to ensure Stewart’s safety.

“This fall, we had a sit down with his dad and trainer and principal just to make sure we were all on the same page,” Darst said.  “We understand the condition and it hasn’t been an issue at all.”

“We kind of got a routine of how we handle it now and it’s worked pretty well so far,” assistant coach Hunter Henry said,  “I think we have kind of gotten it down now, I think it took the first couple weeks.  It was a pretty big concern.”

Special equipment is used to ensure that Stewart’s heart rate is always under control.

“At practice I wear a watch and a band.  Then, during games I wear a bluetooth band so coach can look up the heart rate on his phone,” Stewart said.

One of the largest components to the successfulness of coping with this condition is trust.

“It’s kind of a fine line you have to walk with how you treat it.  You have to kind of have trust that he knows his body and how he feels, he’s lived with it his entire life and you have to trust that he knows how hard he can go,” Henry said. “At the same time, as a coach, you always think that guys can go harder and can run faster and do these things but you kinda have to put a little bit of that trust in his hands and that is hard sometimes as a coach to kind of give up that control.”

Darst also places trust into Stewart’s hands.

“We trust him so when he’s at that point he has to stop himself,” Darst said.

Although this syndrome brings fear at times, it also brings both motivation and inspiration to the coaching staff and teammates.

“It’s inspirational,” sophomore Isreal Watson said. “It’s pretty fun playing with him. He’s a great athlete.”

“It’s cool that he is able to play basketball and do sports and run and jump and not be affected, it isn’t something that really limits him,” Henry praised.  “But it’s cool cause a lot of people, with what has happened in his family, they would stop doing things but he’s kind of kept going and pursue the best that he can, that’s pretty neat.”

Darst also finds the light in the situation.

“He’s a great kid.  And Darrell, you know, has a tough situation and he’s dealt with a lot of things in his life already.  He’s handled stuff pretty well to get where he’s at,”  Darst said.

Stewart also utilizes his condition to act as a motivation factor.

“It motivates me to strive for greatness and to work hard everyday.  It really makes me go harder,” Stewart said.