Clayton Harmeyer // Athletic Training
Lincoln athlete Clayton Harmeyer headed to the doctor to get his junior year school sports physical. He was looking forward to another year of football, basketball and track, and this formality was one step to get him on his way.
The year before, one Reid physician had noticed something in his heartbeat that was a bit concerning, but didn’t seem to be serious. This year, when Clayton was called back and sat face-to-face with the physician, he heard a similar comment. “They heard something they didn’t really like,” he said. It was time for further tests.
After an EKG and echocardiogram, Clayton was referred to Cardiologist Dr. John McGinty who explained the situation. “He thought the heart looked a little large, but thought it was an ‘athletic heart’,” said Andrea, Clayton’s mom. Like any other muscle used frequently, an “athletic heart” is larger than most. Dr. McGinty wanted to perform a stress test to be sure there were no underlying issues.
“Dr. McGinty called me after hours and said Clayton’s blood pressure was through the roof,” Andrea said. “He needed blood pressure medicine, but because of Clayton’s age, he wanted us to see a pediatrician.” Clayton soon began medication and was monitored at Reid by pediatric cardiologist Dr. Leonard Steinberg.
The doctor wanted Clayton to have his blood pressure checked prior to playing sports, so Clayton, Andrea and Reid Athletic Trainer Denny McCord agreed on acceptable numbers. Every day, Denny would monitor Clayton’s blood pressure to see if he was in the safe range to join his team.
“Only one time all year was it low enough to practice,” Clayton said.
“Denny was just really good through it all. He had the bad job of telling him every day he couldn’t play,” Andrea said. “At no point did we want to take any kind of chance.”
Although Clayton’s blood pressure was under control, he continued feeling palpitations. Denny recommended he see his physician again, hoping everything would be okay and Clayton could return to football. Unfortunately, this visit led to another stress test and a diagnosis beyond hypertension – supraventricular tachycardia. Clayton needed a heart surgery.
Of course, Clayton was nervous about the diagnosis and upcoming procedure. “Denny said it was no big deal, and he would let his own kids do it,” Clayton said. “He was just really a good friend too.”
Following an eight-hour catheterization, Clayton’s heart was repaired. In just two days, he was allowed to play basketball again.
“I was worried I would never get to play again,” Clayton said. “Denny said I would be fine – he cared.”
“It is just a comfort knowing someone is there,” said Andrea. “Denny has been great!”
Clayton’s final sentiment – “Thank you.”
Reid Foundation supports 11 area high schools with free full-time athletic trainers working with student athletes on stretching, strength and agility. Sometimes, as with Clayton, this role is expanded.