From the age of 4, sophomore Miles Edwards has been playing baseball.
Edwards started playing Little League. In different years he played for the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants.
At the age of 11, he started to play competitive travel baseball.
While playing for the Sacramento Hittmen as a pitcher, Edwards’s team won a couple championships.
When he was 15, Edwards played for Walbeck Baseball Academy, a club baseball team in Sacramento. There he would have conditioning sessions, which included agility and weight training, three to four days a week
Edwards pitched for his travel team and he pitched for the SCDS Cavaliers last year, the first year the team had a winning record.
“Baseball has been a part of me and my family’s life,” Edwards said.
Edwards’s father Steve coached him for five years when Edwards played Little League. In addition, he took his son to his practice and conditioning sessions. His mother Cynthia pitched in in other ways.
“My mom would help me with the mental side of baseball, like being more positive,” Edwards said. “My dad was more on the technical side of baseball.”
But Edwards’s involvement in baseball – and most other sports – came to an abrupt end in late May due to an unexpected diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).
Before getting his wisdom teeth removed in May, Edwards was put on a heart monitor (a routine practice for oral surgeons before giving patients anesthetics). While on the monitor, Edwards’s oral surgeon noticed something odd about his heart rate.
Edwards was then sent to a heart specialist. The specialist was fairly sure that Edwards had HCM, but checked with other doctors to be certain of this diagnosis. Finally, in late May Edwards was diagnosed with HCM.
HCM is a fairly rare cardiac disorder in which the heart’s left ventricle excessively thickens, making it difficult for the heart to correctly circulate blood throughout the body.
According to his doctor, Edwards’s wall thickness is currently 1.8 centimeters, much thicker than the healthy hearts of boys his age (1.1-1.2 centimeters).
In the general population, one in 500 people (one in 100,000 children under 18) suffers from the disease.
Because both sides of Edwards’s family (his parents and relatives) have tested negatively for HCM, his doctors have concluded that the disease is a result of a genetic mutation.
Edwards said that he took his diagnosis well, but his parents and family didn’t.
“Sure the first couple of days were hard, but I got over it fairly quickly,” Edwards said. “Unfortunately it was a different story for my family.
“Like how you would expect, my parents were heartbroken and extremely shocked. They knew I could no longer play the sports I love, and that was devastating for them.”
Edwards’s parents said they were both shocked and confused when first learning about his disease.
“I was at a loss when the doctors finally told us what he had,” Cynthia said. ”I started to ask the doctor questions about the disease because I had never heard of it; of course I became scared.”
And his half sister, Lauren Taylor, ‘11, was just as upset.
“I remember Lauren calling me (from Boston College) and crying,” Steve said. “She was his biggest fan, and she couldn’t believe that Miles’s dreams of playing college baseball were crushed.”
Shortly after receiving the diagnosis, Edwards and his parents traveled to an HCM center in Minneapolis to see Barry J. Maron, MD, the world’s leading specialist on HCM.
At the center, Edwards underwent many tests to measure the severity of his disease, including a stress echocardiogram, a regular echocardiogram and a cardiac MRI.
For the stress echocardiogram, Edwards ran on a treadmill while being hooked up to heart monitors. The monitors measured his heart rhythm, and his blood pressure was closely watched.
Doctors concluded that Edwards’s HCM is not severe, although he won’t know his lifelong severity until he is about 19, he said.
That means that Edwards doesn’t need surgery or a pacemaker like others who suffer from it, he said.
Steve said that both he and Cynthia went online after their son’s diagnosis to find out more about HCM.
“After learning more about the disease, we started to noticed how many people in the media, athletes included, suffer from (the disease),” Steve said.
For instance, all-American basketball player at Loyola Marymount University Hank Gather unknowingly had cardiomyopathy, and during a game against UC Santa Barbara the athlete collapsed and died.
Other athletes who died of cardiomyopathy include Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Joe Kennedy, U.S. marathon runner Ryan Shay, Denver Broncos running back Damien Nash and NHL player Sergei Zholtok.
None knew they had cardiomyopathy because there are virtually no symptoms.
Edwards said he has received a lot of support from faculty.
“(Biology teacher) Dr. (Kellie) Whited was notably supportive,” Edwards said. “She told me to contact her when I got the results.
“Some teachers who had medical connections and knowledge would refer me to doctors.”
Edwards said he will have to travel annually to Minneapolis to have his heart wall measured by Maron.
Maron wrote the book “A Guide to Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy,” and is an accredited physician at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation and the director of the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center.
Along with the check-ups, HCM means that Edwards’s life will change significantly.
Now he can’t have any sudden bursts of movement or extreme exhaustion.
That’s bad news for a team that depended on Edwards (who played pitcher and shortstop) last year to lead them to an overall 13-5 record.
“He was a leader on the team because of how he played and how much he understood the sport,” junior catcher Emil Erickson said.
Edwards would often finish games for the team so they could keep their lead.
He was also one of the best hitters on the team (22 runs over the course of the season), Erickson said.
And he was a guard on the varsity basketball team that won section championships and were semifinalists in the Nor-Cal League.
So now Edwards will shift his focus to a sport he can play – golf.
He used to play golf every August and devote the rest of the year to baseball.
“I’ve been golfing my whole life, but now I’m really starting to get into it,” he said.
Edwards plans on playing for the school’s golf team.
But he said he still will support the boys’ basketball and baseball teams and even wants to help baseball coaches Chris Millsback and Michael Cvetich.
He still plans on attending the majority of the baseball and basketball games, he said.
Aside from no longer participating in exhausting activities or sprinting, Miles hasn’t noticed much of a change in his life from his HCM, he said.
But his parents say they’re still recovering emotionally from the diagnosis, but time is making things better.
“We are still processing in our own way right now,” Steve said. “We know we will get through this.
“Miles is doing so well with his new lifestyle, and he is helping us get through this tough time,” Steve said.
“He never has asked ‘Why me?’ He is our hero.”
—By Katia Dahmani