During the first week of training camp, Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Mike Patterson suffered a seizure during practice and was later diagnosed with a brain arteriovenous malformation–which is a tangle of blood vessels in the skull. While the story is tragic and scary to think about, Patterson’s ability to return to the football field has given one college recruit diagnosed with a similar condition hope that he will be able to do the same if he’s cleared to play football again.
Kyle Van Atta is a 6’4″ 285 pound senior football player at Fort Walton Beach that hopes to be playing at the college level this time next season. Not only does he play both right guard on offense and nose tackle on defense–but Kyle has been recruited by numerous big-name schools that include Southern Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa State, Clemson, Louisville, and Florida. In fact, Kyle’s play over the last few years earned him a spot as one of 12 players on the Dandy Dozen–a list that consists of the most eligible college recruits in North Florida.
Despite all of these accomplishments, Kyle’s football career has unfortunately been put on hold for the moment after being diagnosed with cerebral proliferative angiopathy–a slightly lesser form of AVM like Patterson has. Kyle is currently on medication to prevent seizures and headaches, but whether or not he’ll be able to play football again is still unknown and will be decided next week when he pays a visit to the doctors.
Back on July 11, Kyle suffered a seizure in the middle of the night and was originally diagnosed with the same condition as Patterson. Kyle remembers the first minute or two after the seizure before falling out of bed and going unconscious, but he somehow managed to make his way upstairs to his parents bedroom before eventually going to the hospital.
“I woke up at 2 A.M. and felt this weird tingly feeling on my right side,” Kyle said. “On top of that, my legs started shaking and it just progressively became more violent.”
Kyle spent about 12 hours at the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center that night and received numerous tests from doctors as they tried to figure out the cause of the seizure.
“We were there for a good 12 hours,” Kyle explained. “The whole time, I was just sitting there and hoping the doctor would just come in the room and tell me that it was just a seizure and would just hand me medicine to take–but that obviously wasn’t the case.”
When the radiologist finally did come in, Kyle described it as the “scariest moment of his life.”
“The radiologist comes in says Kyle–we’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is you don’t have any brain cancer. He kept emphasizing to me and my mom that it wasn’t brain cancer which seemed scary because that means something else is obviously wrong.”
Doctors explained to Kyle how he had a huge cluster of veins on the right side of his brain and it had already caused him to lose brain tissue due to a restriction of blood. Right away, Kyle and his family agreed that surgery was the better option over radiation treatment since it seemed like the best chance for him to live a normal life–that is until the doctors told him he would have to give up football and lifting weights. Kyle was hoping that he would be able to return to the field after a year or so following the surgery, but from what doctors told him–he wouldn’t even be allowed to ride a bike.
“When the doctor told me that I wouldn’t be able do anything physical–I just lost it,” Kyle said. “I felt like I was in a movie or something as I sat there crying in the hospital room.”
Shortly after, Kyle arrived at the University of Alabama Hospital at Birmingham for emergency brain surgery and reached out to as many friends and family as possible to explain what was going on and to pray for the best. Before the surgery, the doctors wanted to make sure they were taking the right approach towards Kyle and gave him a CT scan to see what it showed–and it was a good thing that they did.
The doctors explained to Kyle how from a medical standpoint–CPA was a better condition to be diagnosed with than AVM since the blood flow would be just fine. Unfortunately though, CPA is such a rare condition and the doctor who was studying the condition actually passed away in the middle of his study–so doctors are still trying to figure out what to expect from Kyle’s case.
Still, being diagnosed with CPA instead of AVM had one positive outcome for Kyle–there may be a chance that he will be able to play football again. He was recently cleared by doctors to begin running again and after seeing Patterson return to action after his scare–Kyle’s hopes are high that he will be able to do the same.
“I received about 30 texts from friends of mine when news first broke about Patterson’s condition,” Kyle said. “All they could talk about was how crazy it was that I had a similar condition as an NFL player.”
“In all honesty, as bad as it sounds, I saw it as a sign from God. I was pretty upset about everything and was just looking for a sign that everything was going to work out for me with football and I realized if Patterson can return to the field–there’s no reason why I can’t do the same.”
Between family, friends, and all of the doctors and nurses he’s met over the last few months, Kyle could not be more thankful for everyone that has been there for him during these difficult times and feels blessed to have them be part of his life. September 12 is a day that’s been circled on Kyle’s calendar for weeks as doctors will tell him whether or not he can play football again. One specific visit will determine whether or not he will be allowed to play the game he loves so much as a senior with the rest of his teammates–not to mention the impact it will play on his future with college.
Despite not being able to play at the moment, Kyle has made the best of his situation and has done everything possible to still support his Viking teammates. It hurts not being able to actually play, but Kyle has made sure he’s on the sidelines every practice and has even taken up a hobby of filming so they can look back and improve their games.
“There’s no feeling in the world like having football being taken away from you. As much as you can hate the practices, there’s no feeling like being denied the right to play a sport you love as much as football.”
Just like Patterson, Kyle’s story from the last few months as he attempts to make a comeback to the game he loves is nothing short of inspirational and we hope for nothing but the best for him and his family during this difficult situation. Be sure to keep Kyle and his family in your prayers for a positive outcome when September 12 rolls around as he finds out whether or not he’ll be able to play football again.
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Email Dan: Dan.Parzych@RantSports.com