Monterey football player hosting awareness event promoting heart health for athletes

Zaidyn Ward collapsed on the field and his heart stopped twice back in August 2022.
Published: May. 5, 2023 at 9:55 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A Lubbock family is stressing the importance of athlete’s health after a teen collapsed on the Monterey High School football field nine months ago.

This Saturday, they will host the Plainsmen’s Heart Walk to educate Lubbockites about heart health for athletes.

At the age of 15, Zaidyn Ward has had a four-hour open-heart surgery and a SCID defibrillator, which is meant to save his life if his heart forms a blood clot or stops, inserted into his side. His grandmother, Judy Combs, says while he’s not the active teen he once was, he is back to moving around.

“He’s come a long way from where he was, still got a long way to go, but he’s getting there,” Judy said.

In August, Zaidyn collapsed during a high school football game and his heart stopped twice. At the hospital, doctors determined his heart wasn’t working the way a teenager’s should.

After hearing Zaidyn’s story, the founder of the nonprofit 39 Hearts by Spotlight 39 reached out. The foundation’s motto is every strong athlete needs a strong heart, which stems from an incident similar to Zaidyn’s.

“His cousin was going through seven-on-seven conditioning days, and this happened - that kind of hits you,” Judy said.

So 39 Hearts is working with the family to educate people about heart health for athletes, and how to respond in an emergency. The event will be at Monterey Saturday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Zaidyn’s mother, Cassandra Combs, said a cardiologist will teach attendees how to jump into action and save a life.

“They’ll be doing, like showing you how to CPR, how to use an AED machine,” Cassandra said. “Like, bring awareness on the importance of how athletes need to be healthy and if something happens like this, they’ll know what to do.”

Judy said the walk is to show everyone how stimulated your heart can get in a short amount of time. Her goal is to show the public how serious it is since these incidents are happening more and more.

“A lot of people don’t understand how severe this is until it sits down on your doorstep. Once it becomes a big issue,” Judy said.

Although he’s had many procedures and still doesn’t have much energy, Zaidyn is going to walk Saturday.

“He said he’s going to try to walk a little bit, but he’s going to participate,” Cassandra said.

His mother and grandmother said it fills their hearts with joy to see him walking in recovery.

“It just makes you feel good because every now and then I’ll sit and look at him and get teary-eyed because I’m still thinking, man, God blessed you,” Judy said.

They will also be raffling off Bluetooth speakers with the money raised going toward medical expenses.

There will be live entertainment, food trucks, bounce houses, face painting and more at the Plainsmen’s Heart Walk.

They’re hoping for a big crowd congratulating Zaidyn on his progress and wishing him well in his next chapter as a sophomore.