BY: JULIA JACOBO, ABC NEWS
(WASHINGTON) — Minnesota Vikings linebacker Cameron Smith is feeling “great” as he recovers from open heart surgery for a birth defect that was detected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Smith received a presumptive positive test result when the Vikings reported for training camp in July, but when another optional test came up positive for the antibodies, meaning he had contracted the virus at some point, a cardiac work-up was ordered.
The closer look at Smith’s heart may have saved his life, Vikings head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman told the Minnesota Star Tribune. Doctors discovered Smith was born with an bicuspid aortic valve, Smith wrote on Instagram in August, which means the valve has only two leaflets instead of three and can eventually lead to heart failure.
Smith’s heart was “severely enlarged” and would not have lasted much longer, he wrote. Doctors told Smith that had the condition not been discovered, it could have meant “sudden death,” he told the Star Tribune.
Smith has periodically posted updates to his recovery on the social media platform, including when the surgery was deemed a success and when he attempted his first steps following the surgery.
The linebacker told the Star Tribune he feels blessed he hasn’t struggled physically.
“I haven’t hit a low point. I haven’t struggled,” he said. “Sometimes I feel that’s not fair of me to say because I know some people struggle with open heart surgery. But for me, I just look at God and I say, ‘Thank you. I appreciate You giving me this sign.’”
Smith has slowly been increasing how much weight he can lift — starting from 15 pounds in September, but no upper body exercises, and 25 pounds through October. He has now been given unrestricted clearance and is building back the muscle he lost.
Smith believes the surgery changed him mentally as well, saying that he no longer feels “on edge” and doesn’t “get angry anymore.”
“It’s all just like, ‘Life’s too short for this.’ Life is supposed to be fun,” he told the newspaper. “It’s about doing things and creating memories, not just talking about it.”
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