People Of The Plains: A Love For The Game

Jul 26, 2017

“Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” That quote is one of Halee Langen’s favorite quotes.

This is an adaptation of an interview that I had with Halee Langen in “A love for the Game” as told by M’Kenzie Garrett.

When you meet a person your initial reaction isn’t to ask them what battles they have overcome or how difficult it might have been for them to fight those battles. Sometimes, the extent of a hard time can be measured by a single painful experience, but other times it can be the smaller things that add up to bring the pain.

Halee was diagnosed with coarctation of the aorta and a bicuspid valve whenever she was an infant. This heart conditions means that the valve that pumps blood to her heart was pinched shut and most people have three heart valves and she was only born with two. When they did the procedure they cut out the part of the valve that was pinched shut and sewed it back together. According to the US National Library of Medicine 1-2% of the population experiences this heart disease.

When they did the procedure to correct the problem, they cut out the part of the valve that was pinched shut and sewed it back together. This condition was supposed to alter her ability to play sports from a very young age. 

“Two weeks after I was born I went into heart failure and I had to have immediate open heart surgery. A few weeks later I went into heart failure again. This was a really traumatic experience for my parents to overcome,” Haley said.

Halee’s mom is a coach and had always dreamed of being able to coach her daughter someday.

“When they found out I was a girl, my mom was extremely excited because she knew she would be able to coach me,” Haley said. “So when the doctor told my parents that I couldn’t be active and that there were a lot of restrictions that I would have because of my health, it was hard for them.”

She had hardships throughout her life because of her heart condition and will probably have to deal with that for the rest of her life. When she was younger she struggled with having doctors' appointments that turned into tests on her heart to make sure everything was okay. 

“When I was in elementary school, my parents took me to multiple specialists to get their opinion on what I was going to be able to do and not do. The doctors got me to do certain work out plans to try and keep up with my heart and see where my limitations were,” she said. “After all of that, they finally did approve me to play. I was allowed to play sports all through middle school and high school and had the chance to play sports in the college level, but decided to focus on school instead.”

This led to her parents fighting the odds and eventually finding doctors who thought Halee was well enough to play. 

This huge gesture showed Halee's true dedication to the game. Throughout her life, she played sports and owed it all to her parents for taking that risk on her. This inspired her and showed her what a true love for the game looked like. 

“I do remember going back to the doctor when I was 16 and my doctor could not believe that my heart turned out to be as good as it was and that I was in such good health,” Haley said. “I remember very vividly him saying that someone who went through what I went through should not be able to play sports or really be able to do anything that I was doing.”

“It does still affect me today because I have to go to the doctor yearly for checkups. The doctors have warned me that when I do get married and decide to have kids that it may be hard for me to have those heart problems during pregnancy and I read a statistic that the heart condition that I have often occurs in multiple members of the same family and that is something that I will have to keep in mind when that time comes,” Halee said. “So that is something that I am going to have to watch out for and it might come into play in the future stages of my life.”

Although my heart condition is bad I know how bad it could be. I have a family friend whose son is about two years older than I am and he has the same condition that I do, but his continues to get worse and worse and throughout his life. He’s had around five open-heart surgeries since then. They’ve had to replace all of his valves and he has a pig heart right now. I’ve always been thankful that my health isn’t that bad and I am aware of how scary my condition could be, not only for me, but also for my family.

I think that the hardest part is watching how big of a toll it takes on my parents. Every sickness I have is always a bigger deal. When I have a cold or a sore throat there are always tests that have to be ran just to make sure it doesn’t have to do with my heart. I was hospitalized whenever I got mono so they could run some tests on my heart to make sure everything was okay.  I know that was always stressful for my parents to go through and for my parents to watch happen to me, but they always thought of me first and never showed their fear.”

Halee is now an SES and plans to be a coach. She explains that her mom’s dedication to the sport and the passion that she obtained are things that inspire her. She hopes she can be a strong influence on her future students’ lives in that way.

“Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do,” she said.

About the author:

My name is M’Kenzie Garrett and I am a junior at West Texas A&M University. I am from Lubbock, Texas and graduated from a little high school called Ropes.

When I first moved to college I met Halee and she inspired me. When I found out that we were doing a project like this I knew that she was a great person to interview and that her story would really resonate with other people as much as it did with me.