WDAY: The News Leader

Published November 21, 2012, 09:29 PM

Fargo teen making way back to the basketball court following rare heart condition

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - A Fargo teenager and his family are feeling especially thankful this Thanksgiving.

By: Robin Huebner, WDAY Staff Reports, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - A Fargo teenager and his family are feeling especially thankful this Thanksgiving.

Al Bates was looking forward to his sophomore basketball season at Davies High school, when he nearly became a casualty on the court, drawing comparisons to Perham player Zach Gabbard who collapsed during a game early last year.

That six foot eight Al Bates is doing this again is nothing short of a miracle.

At summer camp, on this very court, he was stopped dead in his tracks.

Al Bates, Davies High School Sophomore: "I was going hard out, doing everything the coach was saying. All of a sudden, I started to feel something weird. I mean, it hurt a little bit, but more pressure, it just stopped me, got a little short of breath and had to sit out."

Instead of trying to push through it, Al told his coaches.

Bart Manson, Davies HS Boys BB Coach: "Look, after what happened in Perham, the worst nightmare for a coach is to have something like that happen."

Then, Al told his mom. Initial tests for heart trouble were normal, but the doctor said al should have more tests, to be safe. Those results were tough for the family to take.

Scott Bates, Al’s Father: "You have so many dreams.”

Al was diagnosed with a rare heart defect, one affecting less than one percent of Americans.

Dr. Justin Horner, Sanford Pediatric Cardiologist: "His coronary artery opening was smaller than normal because it came off in an abnormal spot. So it was hard for blood to get out there in the first place. Then when he stressed his heart with exercise, it made that opening even more narrow."

Sue Bates, Al’s Mother: "It could have been a matter of time that Al would have been a statistic on the basketball court."

Al needed open heart surgery at mayo clinic. At first, it looked like he'd miss the entire season, but surgeons made a smaller incision than expected. So ten weeks post, he's already back in the gym.

Al is still in the healing process, so he has to take it easy on the court. That means no hard running, no full contact, just shooting around.

Scrimmages are out too. But if Al passes a stress test next month, he's back to full contact basketball.

Manson: "It's science and modern medicine. Really, we're looking at maybe he can play in the first game now. It really is incredible, but also lucky too."

Scott Bates: "I think that's the big thing, you know that he has a long life ahead of him now. That could have changed."

Sue Bates: "I can't wait to see him play, I really can't, knowing that he's gonna be okay."

And because he's okay, Al wants others to learn from him.

Al Bates: "I would say, if you're not feeling right, or anything is wrong, in any part of your body, tell someone. It could save your life, pretty much."

Al is expected to make a full recovery. He'll play JV for Davies this season, but coach Manson says Al could see varsity time, too.

For more on Al's comeback, read the story in tomorrow's Forum.