HOUSTON - A basketball player from Houston suffered a massive stroke when he was in college. It happened again years later when he was playing professionally.
He was at risk of it happening again until he found out one of his basketball buddies happens to be a doctor. The help from a neurologist probably sounds like what he needed, yet it was actually a Cardiologist in this case.
Evan Sims. 30, is entering a new stage in life. As the proud dad of his 6-month-old son, he's appreciating life now, more than ever. When Evan was only 19 years old, he suffered a life-threatening medical crisis, while playing basketball in college.
"I was just shooting hoops, I stumbled back, and I couldn't say anything. I was a real jokester, so they didn't know if I was playing. They asked if I was okay, but all I could say was, Hmmmm. Hmmmm," explains Evan.
He was far from OK though, and a trip to the emergency room confirmed he was having a stroke.
Like the majority of *young people who suffer from a stroke, doctors diagnosed a small hole in his heart, simply called a PFO.
"He had been found to have a patent-foramen ovale (PFO), a tiny little flap, or hole in his heart that had not sealed and that was what was ultimately deemed responsible for his stroke. A PFO truly is something we all have, every single person has, when they're in fetal development," states Dr. Daniel Hermann with Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center.
That hole typically seals off after birth, but since Evan's didn't, it put him at a higher risk for stroke.
He was offered surgery to repair it after his first stroke. "My question, would that device, being in my body, would something happen to it with all those years? I didn't want that in my body at 19 years old. I was told to get the device or take an aspirin a day. I chose an aspirin a day to be cleared to play basketball," says Evan.
It took months, after months, of hard work for Evan to gain strength and get his speech back.
"I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn't say it. It affected the left side of my brain, which affects the right side of my body, so my right side was so weak, and I had a crooked smile," Evan states.
His grandmother flew to Houston to teach him how to read again.
"I read a kiddie Bible. I would get frustrated and skip over some words, and she'd say, 'no Evan, it doesn't say that, let's go back,'" Evan explains.
Her tough, but loving ways worked; Evan fully recovered.
Then, he made a new friend at the gym. He had no idea he was a doctor!
"We never talked about work or anything like that, we just played on the court," laughs Dr. Hermann. "That's how pick-up ball goes! You just show up on the court, it doesn't matter, no matter cares about that, it's about, can you play? Can you hoop."
"I said ‘what do you do?’ He said he was a cardiologist and I told him ‘I have a bad ticker,’" laughs Evan.
It was perfect timing for what was about to happen! "Meeting Dr. Hermann has been a Godsend. I was meant to meet him for a reason," says Evan.
That's because Evan ended up suffering from another stroke, luckily a mini-stroke, this time. His friend, Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Hermann knew it was time to sink that problem.
"You're a young, healthy guy, so it weighed on me knowing you were walking around this, and you had that recurrent event," Dr. Hermann tells Evan.
Evan agreed - it was time and listened to his friend's expert opinion.
"I had a bond with him and trust whatever he says," states Evan. "I put my life in his hands. I trust him."
Dr. Hermann repaired the small hole in Evan's heart with a tiny device. This finally gives Evan the peace of mind he's been looking for. He's now cherishing being a basketball coach and is hopeful his son might follow in his footsteps one day and make his own slam-dunks.
"He's 95th percentile in height, so hopefully he'll get as tall as Dada one day," says a laughing 6'8" tall Evan.
To learn more about Structural Heart Disease and Interventional Cardiology, click here.