14-Year-Old Football Player Successfully Undergoes Open-Heart Surgery After Collapsing on Field


Two months scoring a football game’s final touchdown and then collapsing in the end zone as his team huddled there, a 14-year-old high school freshman in Texas has received successful open-heart surgery.

On Aug. 31, Zaidyn Ward had just finished playing the second game of the year, a home game at Monterey High School in Lubbock, when he suffered a seizure on the field, according to Judy Combs, who organized a fundraiser to help the Ward family pay for expenses associated with Zaidyn’s condition.

A medical team in attendance at the game provided CPR after Zaidyn’s heart stopped beating, and eventually used a defibrillator twice to get it going again. Those shocks caused his heart to beat “weekly and erratically,” Combs told KXXV.

Eventually, Zaidyn was transported to Cooks Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, some 300 miles away. He was originally to have received an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator placed in his chest, but surgeons quickly realized that he wasn’t getting blood flow in the left side of his heart.

“This forced the surgeons to stop the procedure and to consider performing open heart surgery, a procedure rare for a child of Zaidyn’s age,” KXXV reported.

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Two weeks later, Zaidyn’s scheduled surgery was again delayed. This time, COVID was to blame.

“What they wanted him to do was come here and give, I guess, his lungs, enough time to heal,” Zaidyn’s mother, Cassandra Combs, told KCBD.

“They did a lot of testing and stuff, and what I was telling you about with his right artery, that one is closed,” she said. “The left one is slowly closing up.”

Because Zaidyn’s condition was so rare in a 14-year-old, his pediatric cardiologist wanted to consult with another specialist before going any further.

Cassandra Combs told KCBD at the time that her “anxiety is sky high,” but that she was relying on God to keep her strong for her son.

“God gave him a second chance,” she said. “So, that’s what I try to tell him, you were meant to be here, He wasn’t done with you, so got to keep going. We’re not through with you yet.”

The surgery was finally completed Monday, and Zaidyn told KLBK that he was already improving faster than expected.

“It feels good,” he said. “They’re saying that I’m healing faster than what I am supposed to be, so that’s a good thing. I’m already walking after the surgery.”

“He’s healing,” his mother told the outlet. “Zaidyn is pulling through. He’s been walking around, he had his tubes taken out, and he’s done his breathing treatments. He’s healing slowly, but so far, he’s doing pretty good.”

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“The arteries over the years are slowly closing up and we never knew,” she said doctors told her, which was the result of what KLBK called an “unknown birth defect.”

“When he was having the seizures, that was due to where the arteries and stuff were closing up and the other one was trying to close up, so it was causing him to pass out,” she said.

Zaidyn is expected to have to take blood thinners and baby aspirin for the rest of his life, but doctors had some very good news for him: Next year, he should be ready to play football again.

You can watch KLBK’s update here:

A GoFundMe page set up to help the family with medical and travel expenses has brought in over $35,400 — more than four times the $8,000 initially sought. Anyone wanting to help out further can do so here.

Zaidyn will need plenty of time to make a full recovery, of course, and said he will need held with basic tasks like changing his clothes for a while, but he expected to be out of intensive care within a few days.

His motto, however, hasn’t changed: “Stay positive and be humble.”

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George Upper is the former Editor-in-Chief of The Western Journal and was a weekly co-host of "WJ Live," powered by The Western Journal. He is currently a contributing editor in the areas of faith, politics and culture. A former U.S. Army special operator, teacher and consultant, he is a lifetime member of the NRA and an active volunteer leader in his church. Born in Foxborough, Massachusetts, he has lived most of his life in central North Carolina.
George Upper, is the former editor-in-chief of The Western Journal and is now a contributing editor in the areas of faith, politics and culture. He currently serves as the connections pastor at Awestruck Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a former U.S. Army special operator, teacher, manager and consultant. Born in Massachusetts, he graduated from Foxborough High School before joining the Army and spending most of the next three years at Fort Bragg. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in English as well as a Master's in Business Administration, all from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He and his wife life only a short drive from his three children, their spouses and his grandchildren. He is a lifetime member of the NRA and in his spare time he shoots, reads a lot of Lawrence Block and John D. MacDonald, and watches Bruce Campbell movies. He is a fan of individual freedom, Tommy Bahama, fine-point G-2 pens and the Oxford comma.
Foxborough, Massachusetts
Beta Gamma Sigma
B.A., English, UNCG; M.A., English, UNCG; MBA, UNCG
North Carolina
Languages Spoken
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Business, Leadership and Management, Military, Politics