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‘Way too young’: Howard Washington shifted perspective by publicizing stroke

first_imgKacey Washington is a planner, but the trip she took to Syracuse in September 2018 was unexpected. Her son Howard — then a sophomore guard for the Orange — suffered a stroke on the university’s campus. Kacey and Howard Sr., Washington’s father, rushed up to Syracuse the next day not knowing what to expect.They knew the details: The procedure to remove the two blood clots was successful. Doctors identified the cause, a hole in his heart undetected since birth, a repairable defect. But what Kacey had heard was too awful. So, she stared. She stared as her son ate, spoke, brushed his teeth, stood up from his chair. She wasn’t looking for anything — nothing at all. She hoped to not find any abnormalities. Kacey wanted to make sure her son did these things the same way he did before.“He was way too young to be going through stuff like that,” Washington Sr. said. “It was killing us inside.”In September of 2019, the Washingtons’ next visit had to be scheduled. Kacey and Howard Sr. set a weekend trip a few months ago to see Washington. Kacey texted Washington to see when he was available.“This is when we’ll be there,” Kacey asked. “What are you going to be doing?”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBut there was a block of time that Washington couldn’t spend time with his parents. Since he told his story to the public in February 2019, Washington has made several visits to hospitals, done several interviews and tells the people he’s most thankful for that he appreciates them every day. Strangers ask him for advice, for positive thinking.He was way too young to be going through stuff like that. It was killing us inside.-Howard Washington Sr. on his son’s strokeFor a few hours that weekend, Kacey said Washington met with a kid in the hospital who had messaged him back and forth. He didn’t publish it on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. In fact, if his parents had not visited that weekend, they perhaps wouldn’t have known either, Kacey said. Washington needed to boost the kid’s spirits in the same way others had lifted him.“It’s kind of like a thank you,” Washington said. “When I can do stuff like that and help other people, I’ll definitely do that for sure.”Washington played in the Orange’s season opener 33 days after his stroke and has appeared in 16 games this season. In the months following the incident, he chose to morph his experience into a positive. Washington wasn’t just fine — in a way, he was transformed.It’s been more than a year since Washington went public with his stroke on Sept. 28, 2018. After watching the video of her son detailing his experience, Kacey sent Washington a text.“Are you changing your career to being a motivational speaker?” she said.Howard knew his mom was joking, and that he didn’t want to be a motivational speaker, but there are two ways this experience could have gone. The doctor who removed Washington’s blood clots assured associate athletic director for sports medicine Brad Pike that Washington, in many ways, was lucky. Washington had no permanent damage. Had it been a defect to Washington’s blood that produced the clots, the injury may have been career-ending, Kacey said.“Depending on your outlook on life, you can be like, ‘Woah, you can go whenever,’’’ Washington said. “You run into a scare like that, it’s kind of like, ‘Woah, that was close.’ I could see that. But I wasn’t really in that mindset when it was happening.”Since suffering the stroke Sept. 28, 2018 and the subsequent reveal a year ago, Washington has become a somewhat inspiring figure. He’s the survivor of a traumatizing experience, and since others don’t take that for granted, he won’t either. Washington routinely talks about his experience in public and private with the goal of helping people going through a similar thing.The experience hasn’t caused Washington to become scared about the realities of his own mortality, but rather wary of its unpredictability. He enjoys the simple moments. No conversation is a throwaway, and Washington said that he always wants to leave an impression on people because it may be his last chance.It’s kind of like a ‘thank you.’ When I can do stuff like that and help other people, I’ll definitely do that for sure.-Howard WashingtonHe thinks sharing his story is the only way that he could help others, so whenever someone asks, he relives it. The outpouring of support helped him, Washington said, so he wants to pay it forward.“He doesn’t need to even advertise to anybody,” Kacey said. “That’s extremely, extremely rare in my opinion.”He began to hear stories just like his own. A few months after his story ran, Washington texted his parents a link to an article. It was about current New Orleans Pelicans player Brandon Ingram and his battle with blood clots. Seeing someone at the highest level of his sport going through something similar made Washington feel like he wasn’t alone.Washington doesn’t have any family history of strokes. Nothing from his mother or father. This incident was a freak, life-threatening accident. But Washington handled it. Now, he wants to help others get through it too.“I don’t like to compare my story to anybody else’s, or whatever it may be,” Washington said. “But it definitely gives you a little insight into people who do go through this. And with stuff like that, it’s good to talk about it and get it out there.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 26, 2020 at 10:49 pm Contact Michael: mmcclear@syr.edu | @MikeJMcClearylast_img read more

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