The heart of a skater

The heart of a skater

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - For years, Kevin Wands put his heart into skating but when his heart turned against him, he had to get off his board.

What he faced could happen to any teen but for Kevin, they found it at the right time.

Even though fixing his problem was no easy trick, he's now back on four wheels, better than ever.

When it comes to talent and passion, 15-year-old Kevin Wands found his at an early age.

"My Uncle Adrian really got me into it," Wands told Region 8 News "I always grew up seeing him skating and he was just a really great idol."

Since then, his skill has grown.

Wands often takes to the skate park in his hometown of Paragould, then uploads and shares videos of his moves on YouTube.

But while his skill was increasing, his health was declining. Since birth, Wands' family has known he had a hole in his heart.

"I always had a heart doctor, since I was born," Wands said. "But we moved to Kansas and I didn't get to see him for awhile."

Without regular check-ups, Wands was unaware that over the years one hole turned into three.

When he finally went back to the doctor, talks quickly turned from skating to surgery.

"He's a teenager and he starts understanding some of the risk which can be up to death," Dr. Alex Arevalo told Region 8 News. "If he didn't, he was at risk for having more trouble with his heart and it gets harder and harder to do the surgery."

Dr. Arevalo, a pediatric cardiologist with LeBonheur Children's hospital in Memphis, said due to advances in technology, heart conditions can be detected in children while they're still in their mothers womb.

"You get a better surgical response if you do it earlier than later," Dr. Arevalo said.

Thankfully for Wands, Dr. Arevalo said he responded very well to his surgery.

Wands told Region 8 News he only had one major problem.

"I had to lay in bed for like a week," Wands said. "I hated it."

For the normally active teen, weeks of recovery were painstakingly long.

"The first competition we ever had, I couldn't compete in it because of my surgery," he explained.

Though he missed out on skating for awhile, Wands is now back at it. Healthier than before and ready to compete in the next competition in a more advanced category.

"That's usually the number one question. What can they play?" Dr. Arevalo said. "Are they able to play sports at the high school level? Collegiate level? Recreational level like skateboarding too. Those are the answers we want to share with them. As early as one day of life"

Dr. Arevalo said being able to share success stories like Wands' to families of children with heart defects gives them hope.

"We have people that are professional basketball players, professional snowboarders, swimmers, football baseball. That doesn't hold you back," he said.

Though most heart defects are found at birth, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, many babies born with holes in their heart show no signs or symptoms for years.

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