Education

Westfield senior’s survival ‘a miracle’

By all accounts, Tucker Moody shouldn’t be graduating from The Westfield School, but he is.

In fact, the heart defect that caused him to collapse on the basketball court during his sophomore year is usually fatal.

“The doctor told his parents they never see it in teenagers unless it’s an autopsy,” Westfield basketball coach Jake Walls said.

Moody said he first noticed something wasn’t right when he was playing defense during a game. On consecutive possessions, the player he was guarding went right by him, and there wasn’t much Moody could do about it.

“My legs, I could tell they weren’t as strong as they usually are,” he said.

Walls called a timeout, and Moody asked to be removed from the game. When he told Walls he was having vision trouble, the coach thought it was just an unusual excuse from a player known to hustle on every play.

“That’s not something your players say all the time,” Walls said.

Moody decided to lie down in the bench area, but his vision issues persisted.

“Once I was laying down, things got brighter and brighter, and I got nauseous.”

When he stood up, he collapsed.

What no one knew was that Moody was suffering the effects of what doctors described as an “anomalous left coronary artery congenital birth defect.” It was similar to the defect that led to the death of legendary basketball star “Pistol Pete” Maravich. In Moody’s case, his artery was in the wrong place.

As it happened, an emergency room doctor named Sheila Southerland was sitting near the opponent’s bench. She rushed to Moody’s side and quickly administered CPR.

“Again, one of those crazy things in God’s providence,” Walls said. “There was an emergency room doctor sitting right there.”

Moody had surgery to repair the defect. While he missed some time in school, his teachers kept him up to speed on his schoolwork. He’s graduating with a 3.96 GPA and several academic achievement awards from the Perry school.

Beyond that, he was ready to play sports again just a few months later.

He played football the next season, and although doctors cleared him, the coaches were hesitant. Moody said he felt like he wasn’t in quite the same shape as before, but Walls didn’t notice.

“We were all just tiptoeing around it, and Tucker just wanted to be treated like anyone else,” the coach said.

Two years later, Moody is set to graduate high school and plans to major in engineering at Auburn University. While he doesn’t tell his survival story unless someone finds out, he knows he went through something special.

“It’s pretty amazing. I’m truly blessed,” he said. “That day was a miracle. ... Everybody there witnessed a miracle.”

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.

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