Sunday, January 21, 2007
Cedar Hill HS student Ciera Trevino makes remarkable comeback in both soccer and life
When the Cedar Hill girls soccer team took to the pitch for their first scrimmage Jan. 5 against Saginaw Boswell, Ciera Trevino returned to what she loves doing the most — playing competitive soccer.
Heather Parks thinks about Ciera Trevino for a moment, wondering what her future might be like.
“I really do believe the sky’s the limit for her,” the Cedar Hill High School girls soccer coach said. “Every day I see improvement with her, whether it’s foot skills or touch on the ball. Every day she finds something that she does a little bit better than the day before.”
Ciera, a junior, is in the midst of a remarkable comeback. Not just in soccer — but in life.
She was nearly killed by a little-known and little-understood genetic disorder as a freshman during volleyball practice when she suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.
Her father, Eddie, a Dallas firefighter and former paramedic, was there and was instrumental in saving her life.
The arrest, brought on by a rare condition known as Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome (“SADS,” or Long QT Syndrome) left her in a coma in the short term as her parents dealt with the fact that not many children survive the affliction — which stems from an electrical problem in the heart.
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Ciera didn’t just survive. She’s thriving again.
And when the Cedar Hill girls soccer team took to the pitch for their first scrimmage Jan. 5 against Saginaw Boswell, she returned to what she loves doing the most — playing competitive soccer.
“Just seeing her on the field again was awesome,” Parks says with wonder.
“It was emotional, too,” Eddie says.
“I know she had been waiting a long, long time for that night to come,” Parks says.
Ciera was the best player on the team as a freshman and was listed as one of the best 100 players in the nation in her age category. Her return gives the Lady Longhorns a dynamic weapon — but she’s far from being 100 percent.
“I’m at about 30 percent now,” she says quietly.
At her peak she could bounce a soccer ball in the air 812 times before it would fall. She can do it five times now.
Eddie and his wife Alice had a remarkable support group of family and friends during Ciera’s long road back, and several fundraisers generated a lot of money to go toward medical bills where insurance fell short.
But once it was clear that Ciera was going to survive the initial incident, it dawned on the family just how much had to be done still.
“We didn’t realize how bad it was going to be until a year later,” Eddie says.
The condition left Ciera with short-term memory loss that she still battles today. She could remember things that had been a permanent part of her life before her disorder struck — who she was, who her family was — but momentary details would elude her.
“A week from now she might not remember talking to you,” Eddie says. “She had to relearn everything — how to speak, how to read, how to walk and how to go back to school.”
Ciera was reading “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” before her SADS condition hit home. She was on page 373, Eddie says.
She has since finished the book and several others, but learning to read again wasn’t easy.
“It was very confusing,” Ciera says. “I didn’t even know what reading was.”
She picked up the Potter book again while in rehab, and it took her an hour to get past one page, Eddie says.
Eddie had to rehabilitate himself in the process. As someone who never liked to read, he found himself teaching sitting down with his daughter and reading to her, helping her to relearn that skill.
She also worked with a teacher who had a stroke and and had to learn how to read again.
Eventually, Ciera started getting better.
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“She could remember what she had read at the end of the chapter. She just couldn’t remember actually reading it,” Eddie says. “But soon she was asking me to come up with more review questions and she wanted me to read more.
“Then she started reading on her own again.”
Eddie was in charge of math and science at home, while mother Alice taught her English and history.
In the chamber
As part of her rehab, Ciera spends time in a hyperbaric chamber on a regular basis — an enclosed chamber that suffuses her body with oxygen pumped in at a higher level than air pressure.
One of the chambers in Dallas comes with a videoscreen so she can watch movies during the 90-minute session.
Many of the films come with subtitles, which forces her to read again.
In addition, Eddie and Alice soon found out that Ciera’s short-term memory improved substantially after each session in one of the chambers.
What’s it like spending all that time in an enclosed, cramped space like that?
“It’s comfortable,” Ciera says with a mild laugh.
During her recovery, Ciera was fitted with an internal defibrillator that regulates her heart. While she’s been cleared to play soccer again, she has to be careful about manual labor and hard contact, which could possibly damage some of the defibrillator’s wiring, Eddie says.
Her soccer skills returned naturally — she never forgot how to play — but she’s still relearning other things.
“She can jump rope now if two people hold both ends of the rope,” Eddie says. “But she can’t do it if she has to hold the rope herself.”
Ciera also was an accomplished swimmer before her cardiac arrest.
“She took a lot of lessons and was part fish,” Eddie says. “When she came out of the hospital, she knew she could swim and said, ‘Oh, I know how to do this,’ but when she got in the water, she went ‘glug-glug’ and sank like a rock.”
Now she’s swimming again, a little bit, Eddie says.
“She gets frustrated if she can’t do something right away,” he says.
Ciera has an aide who helps her get around school, but she can manage most of it on her own, she says. One of her major goals is to graduate with her original Class of 2008.
“The challenge now is for her to stay on top of her academics,” Parks says of Ciera, who was the top-ranked student in her class as a freshman.
“When Ciera did something, it was always at 100 percent, whether it was soccer, whether it was school or anything else. She didn’t know how to do things at less than all-out effort.”
Now she has to pace herself slowly after being cleared to play soccer just in time for the season to start.
“Her cardiologist told us her heart’s fine and back to normal,” Eddie says. “He worried a little bit about the wires getting crossed in her ribs and shoulder blade. Lifting is a concern, and she has to watch out for full-body contact.”
Ciera’s parents were worried about her road back to sports, but she decided on her own to come back.
“Once she sets a goal, she achieves it,” Eddie says.
She played competitively over the summer in an indoor league and worked out on her own in preparation for her junior season at Cedar Hill.
“We never thought she’d get released (to play), so she’s way behind on her conditioning,” Eddie says. “The other day she ran a mile in about 10 minutes at a jog.”
The Trevinos are overjoyed to have their daughter back.
“Not many people her age survive this, but she did,” Eddie says, adding that Ciera is classified at QT1, which is the mildest form of Long QT Syndrome. “At QT3 and 4 it’s usually a recurring problem, but the mild form that Ciera has can be corrected” through beta-blockers and other measures.
Ciera played for about 45 minutes total during Cedar Hill’s second scrimmage of the season against Little Elm and played well, Parks says.
Her home debut was scheduled to come Jan. 16 against Mansfield.
“A lot of kids who have this get depressed and struggle to get by because they don’t have an outlet,” Eddie says. “Ciera was lucky in that she always had soccer.”
And success in soccer should lead to success in other areas like academics, Parks says.
“I really think soccer can be a trigger for so many other things,” she says. “If she can do this, she can do anything.”
Ciera is more than happy to rejoin her teammates.
“I felt happy again when I started playing,” she says. “It’s one dream I was hoping to get back to.”
Parks is happy to see her back, too.
“She could never forget about that black-and-white ball,” she says. “You know what else is going to be something? When she scores that first goal.
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