INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – "Every day that I get to step out on the field is a blessing," said University of Indianapolis freshman Sam Schoonveld.
As the running back out of Clinton Prairie High School prepared for his freshman season at UIndy, he knew he'd go through a routine physical. However, his results were anything but routine.
"I was really caught off guard,” Schoonveld admitted. “I have played three sports, four sports my whole life and I have never had any heart pains or weird rhythms with my heartbeat so when they said that, I couldn't really accept it at first."
An EKG revealed Sam had a potentially life-threatening heart rhythm disorder.
"Long QT Syndrome is pretty rare but it is one of those diagnoses that is known to cause sudden cardiac arrest in athletes,” Dr. Michael Emery, a sport cardiologist at IU Health, explained. “If someone can't get to them or they can't be resuscitated, they don't make it."
Dr. Emery worked with Sam over several months to use medication to help regulate his heartbeat. Dr. Emery explains that while Sam is able to return to the field without limitation, his condition isn't cured.
"I can help mitigate the risk but I can't eliminate it and what risk are you and your family willing to accept,” Dr. Emery said of patients living with Long QT Syndrome.
“The medicine doesn't eliminate it completely so in the back of your mind it’s always there,” Sam admitted. “But I am so glad I get to come out and do what I love to do."
As Sam worked on returning to the field, doctors informed his family that he wasn't the only one at risk.
"After Dr. Emery said that it was a genetic thing we just went and had everyone tested,” Sam said.
Those tests revealed his sisters and father share his condition.
"I have really just taken it as such a blessing and I am so happy that UIndy does all the intensive screenings,” Sam added, “because without that I still would have no knowledge of it and my family would be in even bigger danger."
With his condition controlled and his family's lives potentially saved, Sam doesn't take a day for granted.
“I just take every day like it might be my last and I have faith that it's not going to be my last,” Sam explained. “I just try to approach it and get better every way that I can.”