Isaiah Austin was set to become the amazing, feel good story of the 2014 NBA draft. Austin has played basketball since he was a young boy, but a serious baseball injury and four follow up surgeries left him blind in his right eye at the age of 16. Though the injury was not life threatening, he was told by many people that he wouldn’t be able to succeed at sports ever again.
Isaiah Austin and his mom didn’t listen to all of the voices that told him what he couldn’t do. Instead, Austin worked harder than everyone else, learning to become a basketball star with vision in only one eye. Isaiah Austin would eventually be recruited by Baylor University, where he would excel in his two seasons. Most teams that recruited the young man had no idea he was only playing with one eye. But during his freshman season at Baylor, Austin revealed his dilemma.
At seven feet and one inch, Austin possesses an amazing ability to stretch the defense with his shooting touch. Playing the game he loves with only one eye is amazing enough. Excelling at it is truly inspiring. In an interview at the NBA combine in Chicago, Isaiah Austin talked about his supposed “disability”.
“Anybody with any type of disability, I encourage them to go and fight for their dreams and what they want to work for. The only person that’s going to stop you from getting there is yourself. You always have to have that confidence in yourself to know you can do it. You have to have faith in God because there’s going to be bumps in the road, there’s going to be ups and downs. I just encourage everyone to keep fighting. Nothing is impossible.”
Those words will be put to the test again as Isaiah Austin has had another bump in the road placed before him. An EKG at the NBA combine revealed a heart abnormality. After following up with blood tests, it was discovered that Austin suffers from Marfan Syndrome. Marfan Syndrome is a genetic disorder that breaks down connective tissues in the body. It is a life threatening condition for an athlete, as it can lead to hidden cardiovascular problems. Former olympic volleyball player, Flo Hyman, died at the age of 32 in 1986 while playing in a volleyball match in Japan. She suffered from Marfan syndrome.
In 2008, Michael Phelps was cleared of having Marfan Syndrome, but the testing led to greater awareness about the disorder. Sports physicians regularly check for the degenerative disorder now. Fortunately for Isaiah Austin, doctors caught it before something deadly happened.
However, the end of his NBA dream leaves Austin with a confusing road ahead. Often, when a hero overcomes an incredible adversity like losing their sight, nothing seems able to stop them. But in Austin’s case, his story must now change. Based on how Isaiah Austin has handled the loss of his vision, it seems clear that he will be able to press forward while battling Marfan Syndrome. He confirmed as much on Twitter.
I would love to thank EVERYONE who has reached out to me. Toughest days of my life. But not the last! Life goes on. GOD IS STILL GREAT!
[Image via hitemwheretheyaint.com]