By Dave Wagner
Forgive Portales High’s Sean Brown if he doesn’t think of a tweaked ankle or a pulled muscle as a serious problem.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound sophomore has just been through something a bit more serious — open-heart surgery.
Brown was born with a heart defect, a bicuspid aeortic valve.
“It causes your heart to swell,” he explained.
He said it had been known since his birth that he eventually would require surgery, but he thought he’d probably be 30 or 40 years old before it happened.
He found out during a six-month checkup in January that he’d need the surgery in the late spring or early summer. It was done at Albuquerque’s Presbyterian Hospital.
“They said I would have to have it either on May 5, or after school was out,” Brown said. “I decided to do it May 5 so I could get back in the swing of things quicker.
“If I waited until the summer, I probably wouldn’t be out for football right now.”
Brown rehabbed during the summer, working on an exercise bike and treadmill.
“I couldn’t lift anything over 10 pounds for about two months,” he said.
He missed two-a-day practices in early August, joining the team once school started.
Portales football coach Glenn Johnson marvels at Brown’s determination.
“For him to go through something like that (and) for him to be back as healthy as he is, it’s amazing to me,” Johnson said. “He’s a tremendous young man.
“Sean is kind of soft-spoken, but he really works hard to accomplish what he wants.”
He saw his first varsity action in Portales’ last two games, at Denver City and against Roswell Goddard, playing on the kickoff return team. On the junior varsity squad, Brown starts at offensive tackle and also sees action as a defensive tackle.
“I enjoy being a lineman,” he said. “I think it’s pretty fun. I like the contact.”
Johnson said he became aware of Brown’s heart problems during the track season, where Johnson is also the coach. Brown ran the 100 and 300 hurdles races last spring.
“It was his first time running them,” Johnson said. “He improved his times at every meet.
“From what I’ve heard, he worked hard during his rehab. He did that because he wanted to be able to begin the football season.”
Doctors have told Brown that the physical activity is good for him. He said his heart has gone back to normal size, making the surgery a success.
“I try not to think about it,” he said. “I knew it had to be done. They said the more in shape I was before the surgery, the faster I’d recover.”
He has a donor value in his heart and said that would probably wear out in 10-15 years, at which time he’ll probably need another surgery.
“Maybe they’ll have easier ways to do it in the future,” he said.
Portales has an open date on its schedule this week.