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Sports

Canevin duo overcomes heart ailment

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Bishop Canevin football players Jeff Dobbins and Greg Jones have a passion for the game, and now it beats stronger than ever.

Dobbins and Jones have a heart condition called supraventricular tachycardia. The heart beats rapidly in the upper chamber, sometimes for no reason. Both underwent a procedure to eliminate the irregular beating and have returned to football.

Dobbins, 16, is a sophomore running back/linebacker; Jones, 17, is a senior wide receiver/defensive back and one of the team's captains. Both will be in the starting lineup at 7:30 p.m. Friday when the Crusaders play Fort Cherry at Dormont Stadium.

"I don't really think about (my heart condition) any more," said Jones, who has Wolff-Parkinson White syndrome, where patients are born with an extra electrical connection that causes palpitations. "It was a little scary at first, because they didn't know exactly what they were going to find. They had to explore around a little bit. But once it was over, and I was cleared to play, I was just thinking about football."

Both players said they don't worry about taking or giving a hit, but their mothers won't ever forget having their sons diagnosed with a heart condition.

"I have faith in God that he is OK," said Dobbins' mother Joy. "I don't worry when I am watching him play, but it is in the back of my mind at other times because there is a chance it could reverse."

Dobbins' surgical procedure was last year at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Jones had his in October 2004 at the Cleveland Clinic.

During the operation, a surgeon inserted a catheter through the groin and to the heart. The tip of the catheter either freezes or burns abnormal tissue.

Both players discovered the condition on their own.

"My heart would rapidly beat out of nowhere," said Dobbins, who is 6-foot, 190 pounds. "It had done it a few times before we found out what it was after I hit someone at practice. It also happened when I get nervous."

Jones (5-11, 165) had a similar attack.

"It felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest," he said.

"My son was the picture of health," said Jones' mother Joy. "When you find out something is wrong with your son, it sort of stops you in your tracks. I couldn't believe what was happening."

Joy Dobbins said waiting for her son to come from surgery felt like "the longest day of my life."

It took seven hours because the first attempt was unsuccessful. Doctors told her that if they got too close to a certain part of the heart, they might not do it.

"I was amazed that there was really no healing process," she said. "He could play the next week. He did alarm us a few months ago when he thought it was happening again, but he was OK."

Dr. Lee Beerman, a pediatric electrophysicist who operated on Dobbins and treats Jones, said the long-term prognosis for both patients is excellent.

"It is rare that it occurs again after the procedure is done," Beerman said. "SVT is rarely life threatening. With treatment it allows players to keep playing. They are usually back on the field within a week or two."

Joy Jones recalled watching her son during a stress test after the procedure. He ran so hard that he was on the treadmill twice as long as most patients.

"He had a lot of grit through the whole process," she said. "He refused to quit on that treadmill. They told him he could stop, but I think he wanted to prove to himself that he was better. It made me want to cry because I know he was trying so hard to prove he was better. He is really special."

Joy Jones said during the first football season after the operation, she held her breath when Greg was on the field.

"It was just freaky because we didn't know anything about (SVT) before it happened," she said. "He didn't tell me until after the operation that he was nervous. I was nervous. I was on pins and needles until he came out of surgery."

Canevin coach Bob Jacoby has a son Eric, 36, who had SVT when he was in high school.

"I knew about it, but the heart is much different than when a player suffers a leg or arm injury," Jacoby said. "You know what to do with an arm or leg injury, but you can't immobilize the heart. But my staff is aware of what is going on with the players and takes every precaution to keep them safe."

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