LUBBOCK, Texas — On August 31, Monterey High School freshman football player, Zaidyn Ward, collapsed on the field after the game in the team’s post-game huddle. His heart was shocked twice and then he began having a seizure. He was rushed to the University Medical Center and eventually airlifted to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth.

Monterey was taking on Wylie High School in Abilene that Wednesday night matchup. Recently, Ward was surprised to receive numerous handwritten cards with well wishes from Wylie students.

Cards Wylie High School students made for Zaidyn with well wishes.

“They sent me notes in an envelope from the whole school,” Ward said. “They were like ‘get well soon.’ It made me feel like I mattered. It was nice for them to do it.”

Two weeks after the incident, Ward’s grandmother, Judy Combs, explained the diagnosis. 

“They discovered that his lungs had some damage from COVID,” Judy Combs said. “They also discovered that the artery on the left side was smaller than the artery on the right side, and the blood wasn’t flowing through properly.”

Doctors decided he will need to have open-heart surgery. While he waits for that to happen, Ward is back at school two hours a day and because of his condition, he’s using an elevator instead of the stairs. 

“I go to two periods each day, so Monday I do my first and second and then Tuesday I do third and fourth,” Ward said. “It was a huge change, but it’s been going pretty good.”

Ward’s cousin, Christian Combs, has watched him through his recovery process. He said he’s impressed with how the high school freshman has handled everything.

“The main focus was school, and you can’t do any sports without your schooling,” Christian Combs said. “He’s staying positive, and he’s always got a smile on his face. He’s doing really good. I’m proud of him.”

Ward’s mother, Cassandra Combs said he’s been getting tired very quickly during the school day. 

“The status on Zaidyn’s heart is kind of like an elderly person,” Cassandra Combs said. “They’re needing to team up. The pediatric cardiologist is going to team up with an adult cardiologist to do the surgery.”

The pair of cardiologists will perform an angiogram in the coming weeks at Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth. 

The x-ray procedure will help doctors see Ward’s heart’s blood vessels, so they can make a decision on how and when to proceed with his open-heart surgery.

“Where his heart is right now, the status of it being not working where it needs to be working for a 14-year-old, that’s kind of risky on their end,” Cassandra Combs said. “They gotta hurry up and get it done, but they don’t want to rush and make any type of mistakes that can hurt him.” 

Ward admits he’s a little scared for what’s to come, but he wants to get it over with as soon as possible. 

His ultimate goal:

“Being back to myself and playing what I love, football,” Ward said.

In the meantime, Ward continues to wear a cardiac vest to protect him. The wearable defibrillator automatically shocks the heart when it detects abnormal heart rhythm. After his angiogram in about a week, Cassandra Combs said they should be able to get an official date on the calendar for Ward’s open-heart surgery.

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