Teen copes with summer of surgery

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 28, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
ROCKWELL — Seth Killian typically spends his summer break playing baseball and heading to the pool every chance he gets, but not this year.
Instead of soaking up the sun with friends, the East Rowan High School freshman spent most of his summer indoors, recovering from the heart surgery he underwent in June.
“You can tell he was starting to get stir crazy,” Annette Shive, Killian’s mother, said.
It wasn’t Killian’s first time under the knife, and there are not guarantees it will be his last. He was born with a congenital heart condition that doctors didn’t expect to become problematic until he reached his 50s.
The 14-year-old had his first open-heart surgery in July 2005 and a second surgery in October 2009.
Things were different this time around, Killian said. In the past, only a few close friends knew about his surgery, but hundreds knew when he headed to Aurora, Colo., for surgery at The Children’s Hospital.
That’s because his friend Macey Beattie started a Facebook page asking for prayers and started letting everyone at Erwin Middle School know about surgery months in advance.
“My mom told me that it would probably be a good idea because only a few people knew about Seth’s condition,” Beattie said. “She thought the more people who knew, the better it would be because it would mean more people could pray for him.”
Beattie said as soon as their classmates found out about Killian’s surgery, they were curious to find out more.
“There were a lot of questions,” she said. “They wanted to know everything, to be involved.”
During the final days of middle school, the students wore T-shirts with “Triple S” printed across the front for “Stay Strong Seth” and Killian’s baseball No. 6 on the back.
“I thought it would mostly be my closest friends who would be supporting me, but it ended up being a lot more people,” Killian said. “I was surprised.”
Samuel Wyrick, Killian’s friend since kindergarten, said his family was praying for Killian’s quick recovery.
Following Killian’s surgery, his friends were waiting anxiously to find out how he fared.
“My phone was glued to my side,” Beattie said.
Shive said she could tell Killian’s friends were nervous about the surgery and allowed her older daughter, Taylor, to send hourly updates.
Wyrick said he was relieved when he finally got the news that Killian made it out safely.
“I could finally stop worrying,” he said.
Beattie and Wyrick said they were always concerned when Killian went into surgery, but especially this time, just months after East Rowan senior Cody Ludwick died following his second open heart surgery in a year.
“I think it was very scary for them because of that reason, what happened with Cody brought a little more reality to the situation,” Shive said. “You always think, ‘Oh they are going to be fine,’ but you really never know.”
Killian spent three weeks in Colorado recovering before he returned to Rockwell for a homecoming party.
“All he talked about was how he couldn’t wait to get back home to see his friends,” Shive said.
It took Killian weeks to sift through the cards and Facebook messages people had sent him.
“He couldn’t believe all the people who were asking about him,” Shive said.
Killian was forced to spent most of his summer inside following the surgery, but friends took turns coming over to spend time with him to play video games and to watch movies.
“It was like four or five weeks before I could really do anything,” he said.
Wyrick said every time he stopped by to visit Killian he was “dying to do something.”
Killian is finally able to shoot hoops and go swimming, although he has to be careful not to overexert himself. He also attended his first day of high school Thursday at East.
He said the support from his peers helped speed his recovery along.
“It meant a lot to me that they stood behind me,” he said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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