WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – “People say it’s a boring sport and everything, I agree with that sometimes. Watching it isn’t as fun but I like playing it. It helps you develop mental skills,” explains Blake Noel.
For those reasons and more, Blake says he loves baseball.
“I’m always like, ‘Man I hope I pitch!’ Because I like pitching. Just getting up on the mound, you feel good,” he says.
The 12-year-old has used the sport as both a distraction and motivation in dealing with a heart condition he’s had since he was born.
“There was a hole in between my two chambers of my heart,” Blake explains.
Blake was born with Ventricular Septal Defect or VSD.
It can be treated with surgery, but the older the child the better the success rate.
So for about a decade, doctors watched Blake’s condition.
That led to two years ago when doctors told Blake’s parents that Blake could only participate in non-contact sports, which meant no baseball.
Blake’s mom, Lindsey Stillwell, remembers.
“He was really bummed. The first thing he asked the surgeon was ‘Will I ever get to play baseball again?’ He said, ‘Let’s see how surgery goes. After surgery he said if you get up and get moving I think you can play baseball again.'”
Blake says, “I had a lot of the, man I’m glad this is gonna happen so we can get it over with and at the same time was like wait, this isn’t the best thing in the world. It kinda sucks but we make the most of it.”
Like meeting Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer – and other baseball heroes..while in Kansas City for surgery.
That was a year ago.
Doctors say kids usually spend one to two weeks in the hospital recovering.
Blake was out in four days and now he’s back out on the ball field.
“I’m able to play baseball again,I can do a lot more things that I probably couldn’t do and my condition is better. I’ve gotten better at running,” says Blake.
Turned out surgery was the best thing that could happen to Blake.
“We got to learn that if you tell your story that other people do understand and that it’s about sharing your story too,” says his mom Lindsey.
And the American Heart Association provides a tool to help Blake do that at the Heart Walk.
It raises money that funds the research that gives kids like Blake and their families hope.
“Knowing that in the last 10 years the research advances knowing that there’s so much advance and possibility, there’s so much more optimism than there was before,” says Lindsey.
The American Heart Association’s 2017 Heart Walk and F.A.S.T. 5K is this Saturday at 8 a.m. on the WSU campus.
You can register by clicking here.