Two Heart Surgeries Can’t Slow Down Track Star
Cook Children’s helps keep runner on track
Nick Albus moves fast.
After all, not even two heart surgeries can slow down the Kansas State, and Arlington Martin grad, sprinter down.
Albus, 20 years old and a sophomore, underwent his first surgery at Cook Children’s when he was only 3 days old for a serious heart defect called transposition of the great arteries. This rare condition (one in every 2,000 U.S. babies) is present at birth and occurs when the two main arteries in the heart are reversed.
A scar remains on Albus’ chest from the surgery and he knew that it was “a scary deal for my parents,” but it never prevented him from “doing what normal kids do.” He competed in football, soccer, track and wrestling.
He excelled as an athlete, but things became scary for him during the summer between his sophomore and junior year of high school.
Every time he worked out hard in football preseason, Albus felt like he was going to pass out and he became extremely light headed. Initially, he believed he was becoming dehydrated when he exerted himself. He began drinking gallons of water.
“I thought at first everyone felt this way,” Albus said. “But it kept happening. I just started pounding water. I thought everything was going to be OK, but it didn’t get any better. I felt a pain in my chest and thought I should get this checked out. I was a little scared. I didn’t know what was going on. I believed that God had a plan though and that everything would be good once it was all over.”
After feeling a pain in his chest, Albus returned to Cook Children’s to visit his cardiologist, Richard Readinger, M.D. Dr. Readinger found that the surgery Albus needed as an infant required the arteries to be detached and then reattached. A kink was caused by one of the arteries. Dr. Readinger compares the condition to what happens to a garden hose when it gets knotted up.
Vincent Tam, M.D., medical director of heart surgery at Cook Children’s, performed Albus’ second surgery to repair his coronary artery distortion heading into the 2013 football season. Dr. Tam went through the same scar from Albus’ first surgery as a baby.
Albus needed time for his chest plate to heal in his sternum. No one thought he would return to football. Except Albus. He passed the stress test and made it in time for the end of the season.
He continued to play sports the following season and excelled enough to earn a spot on the Kansas State track and field team as a sprinter.
“I just knew God didn’t stop me from playing or competing in sports,” Albus said. “He must want to me to pursue everything the best I possibly can. Everything has turned out for the best. I just want to do the best I can be and continue to work to get better.”
Don’t try to slow Nick Albus down.