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Heart of willpower and determination

Photo provided.

Logan Lampert played his final baseball season with Northeast Dubois with all of his heart.

The senior took the mound facing tough teams like Jasper, Southridge, and North Daviess in duels that Northeast Dubois Head Baseball Coach Luke Woolems said were challenging situations. “We threw him to the wolves this year and asked him to go against some of the best teams on our schedule, and he handled it,” he said. “The scores may not indicate it in some of those cases, but he really pitched well and made some really good hitters look really silly at times with his offspeed stuff.”

According to Jenny, his mom, Logan has loved baseball from the moment he picked up a ball.

And being on the mound is his favorite place to be. “I love going up there knowing that I’m going to throw them my best pitch, and they’re going to try to give it their best swing, and whoever wins, wins,” Logan said.

Logan’s dad, Tim, says that love for baseball runs in the family.

“From grandpa loving the Cardinals to all of his cousins and uncles and aunts playing either softball or baseball,” he explained. “It’s a passion in our family, and it is just something Logan’s really, really enjoyed playing.”

This season, Tim and Jenny have watched their son play baseball in light of the reality of the battle he went through to ensure he stepped onto the diamond in a Jeeps’ uniform.

In December, Logan had to undergo an emergency open-heart surgery.

The surgery corrected a condition that doctors had found when he was about five weeks old. He had grown up with regular checkups to monitor the condition. Still, those had dropped from every three weeks as a baby to only annually as his body seemingly adjusted to the defect with little to no problems.

It was during one of those regular checkups — one that almost got pushed out — that his doctor found some problems developing.

“I think it is a God-thing,” Jenny said about the timing. “He wasn’t supposed to get a checkup until December.”

But they decided to move the checkup to fall break. They would include the Louisville hospital as a stop in their plans to visit New Albany to tour IU Southeast. “It was supposed to just be a fun time,” Jenny said about the day.

Right away, she knew something was wrong as she watched the electrocardiogram. “I had been to enough appointments,” she explained. “As soon as he started doing it, I could see there was a lot more blood flow going back, and I thought, ‘well, that’s just me being a mom.’”

But then the doctor told her it had gotten a lot worse, and Logan would need surgery soon.

From the bed, Logan simply said, “If I’ve got to do something, I want to do it now because I want to be back in time for baseball.”

Logan covered first base during the opening sectional game against Tecumseh on Wednesday.

With the nonchalance that comes with youth, the 18-year-old jokes with his parents about being dead for about six and a half hours as doctors performed the surgery last December. Technically, his heart wasn’t beating as a team of surgeons removed the extra strings of connective tissue from it.

It’s called a parachute mitral valve and is created when strands of connective tissue stretch down to a single point on the special muscles that pump your heart. These strands form a shape similar to stretched parachute cords, and this extra tissue interferes with the heart’s ability to open and close its valves as it pumps. As a result, blood can flow back into the chambers of the heart.

If the condition is bad enough, the heart will continue to backfill with blood with each pump, expanding as it fills the chamber pulling the valves further apart allowing more blood in. Eventually, it could get too big for surgeons to be able to repair.

“It is just a vicious cycle, and that’s why he needed the surgery right away,” Jenny said.

Along with removing the connective tissue, they also had to extend one of the pieces of the leaflets on his valves using heart tissue harvest from another area.

Photo provided.

Initially, the surgery was scheduled for December 7, but a rapid Covid-19 test the Friday before the surgery showed Logan was positive for the coronavirus. Despite the known inconsistency from the rapid tests, the hospital erred on the side of caution and sent the family home to quarantine with the news it would be about six weeks before he could have the surgery — too late to recover for the baseball season.

But Jenny wasn’t satisfied with the test and didn’t want to give Covid-19 a crack at ruining another season for Logan. She pushed for the more accurate PCR test and was finally able to get one completed locally. It came back negative. After reviewing the test results, the Louisville hospital agreed to move forward with the surgery and rescheduled it for December 16.

They still operated as if he had recently been Covid-19 positive, and therefore, Jenny and Tim were put in the little room with nothing else in it for the extent of the surgery.

For parents, there’s no pain like kid pain. Tim and Jenny wished they could fight Logan’s battle for him, but all they could do was sit in the little room at Norton’s Children’s Hospital in Louisville for those six-and-a-half hours and wait. “They gave us updates,” Jenny said. “But, it sucked.”

“It’s hard when kids look to you for answers, and you don’t know what to do to help them,” Tim said.

They prayed a lot. “We prayed he would make it through the surgery and that he’d have the best opportunity for the best outcome,” he explained. “We have a big family, and they were praying. I think mom (Tim’s mom, Linda, passed away in July 2020) was looking down and helping any way she could too.”

The surgeons came out and told them it had gone well. Logan spent two days groggily recouping and then began to refuse any pain meds. For the teen who had just had his sternum broken so doctors could reach into his chest to remove all those parachute cord fibers, he had to be in pain but he wouldn’t budge on the narcotics.

Jenny found out later that Logan thought if he was off the pain meds, he could be released from the hospital earlier.

About five days after the surgery, he returned home to heal.

Jenny remembers taking him to the field house in January for some practice the weekend before winter workouts began for the baseball season. It had only been about three weeks since the surgery. “He just wanted to see what he could do,” she explained.

He took the mound and tried to throw. The ball went about 30 feet.

“It was sad. He couldn’t make the arm motion to throw,” Jenny said.

Her son’s determination was apparent though. Logan had kept in touch with Coach Woolum throughout the process. “He actually came to the house to tell me was having open-heart surgery,” Woolems said.

They texted back and forth up to the time of the surgery and continued texting while Logan was in the hospital recouping. Then, Woolems was surprised one night when Logan showed up at his house asking for the keys to the weight room. It had been less than a month since the surgery.

Logan began working out with the team but only concentrated on lower-body work while his chest and heart healed.

“He would go to work at Holiday Foods after school, get home, change clothes and then head to the field house until 10 or 11 at night,” Jenny said.

His body recovered, and he consistently worked out and practiced daily until the season began. When he was cleared to play, his doctor warned him about his sternum, which wasn’t fully healed. “He said to make sure I wasn’t diving headfirst into bases or anything because if I broke my sternum, it would be worse this time around than it was the first time,” Logan said.

Although the season ended for Northeast Dubois Wednesday evening as they lost to Tecumseh in the opening game of the sectional, Logan felt lucky to be part of it. It was especially important for him since Covid-19 took his junior season. He explained that it was great being together and playing baseball with the team and the family he loves.

While Logan was in the hospital, he remembers seeing a six-year-old kid who had the same surgery riding a bike around the floor. “I know there are a lot of kids watching us (baseball team) all the time,” he said before referring to the boy he saw at the hospital. “There’s no reason I shouldn’t be out here playing baseball.”

Woolums said that Logan struggled as a freshman on the JV team, and as a coach, he wondered if he had what it took to continue playing baseball throughout high school. He admires the work Logan put in to ensure he played baseball this year.

“It was nothing short of great willpower and determination to get his body back to where he could participate in a high school sport in such a short time,” Woolums said. “Part of our mission with these kids is to send them forth as good men, good husbands, and fathers. Beyond baseball, that’s our job. Right. And I feel like we’ve succeeded with Logan in that regard.”

Logan is heading to the University of Evansville this fall on the pre-law track with plans to become an attorney. He would like to return to Dubois County once he finishes his schooling.