Garrett Wade has asthma, so it was perfectly reasonable for him to assume that any issues he’d been having with endurance and shortness of breath were related to that.

In March, he found out there was something else involved.

Taking advantage of the free heart scans offered by Giving Hearts a Hand, Wade — now a sophomore goalkeeper on Center Grove’s junior varsity soccer team — was able to find out that he had a 3-centimeter hole in the septum of his heart.

Not surprisingly, Wade was floored at the time.

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“I was really freaked out,” he said. “I had a lot of thoughts go through me, and it blew my mind that it was me; I’m a healthy athlete.”

Thanks to the scan, Wade’s a bit healthier now. Had the hole gone undetected, he said, he was at risk of succumbing to heart failure before he hit the age of 40. Instead, he’s back on the soccer field and feeling better than ever.

Wade went to Riley Children’s Health, where he underwent a heart catheterization to close up the hole. The minimally invasive procedure took about an hour and a half and left no scar on his chest — and about a month later, he was cleared for a return to action.

“I was a little freaked out when he came out for the first time in the summer and said he was ready to go,” Center Grove varsity coach Jameson McLaughlin admitted. “I read the doctor’s note that said he was ready to go — and it still freaks me out a little bit.”

When Wade did get cleared, he had no idea what to expect. This wasn’t the same as coming back from a pulled muscle or an ankle sprain, so there was a degree of anxiety and uncertainty there.

The heart, after all, is a pretty important organ.

Turns out there was no need for alarm.

“I wasn’t necessarily worried about re-injuring it,” Wade said. “I started to wonder about how I was going to feel, because the doctor said I was going to feel different. So I was very curious to see how much difference it would make — and the way that it’s been is crazy. I have more stamina than ever.”

Not surprisingly, Wade and his parents have become strong advocates for Giving Hearts a Hand and encouraging other athletes to get scanned.

“His story in general will hopefully spark some interest in others, and they’ll maybe be a little more proactive,” Giving Hearts a Hand co-founder Doug Meyer said of Wade.

Meyer knows all about the importance of getting out in front of such things. When he was a high school sophomore, he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that causes stress on the heart through a thickening of the tissue.

Though Meyer now lives a relatively normal, active life, his condition has contributed to several premature deaths in athletes, most notably college basketball star Hank Gathers in 1990.

The aim of Meyer and his wife, Cortney, is to help alert young athletes to any such problems before they become life-threatening.

In the case of Wade, mission accomplished.

What is heart catheterization?

The hole in the heart of Center Grove sophomore Garrett Wade was repaired through a process known as cardiac catheterization. Years ago, Wade would have likely had to undergo a far more invasive procedure to repair the issue — but the doctors at Riley Children’s Health didn’t need to make so much as a nick in his chest.

Catheterization involves inserting a long, thin tube in an artery or vein in a patient’s groin, neck or arm and threading it through the blood vessels to the heart. In Wade’s case, the catheter was inserted through the groin.

Doctors can use the procedure to conduct diagnostic tests, or in cases like Wade’s, perform certain operations. Patients typically remain awake but medicated during catheterization. Risk of complications is minimal and recovery time is usually quite swift.

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2715.