St. Cloud Tech student happy to be alive

5:09 PM, Jan 20, 2012   |    comments
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ST. CLOUD, Minn. - Bryant Bohlig was on a waiting list last fall for a heart transplant. The fear of congestive heart failure was very real and frightening.

This week, he'll be playing on the St. Cloud Technical High School boys basketball ninth-grade team. It's impossible to detect that he's anything but another teenage athlete competing in sports at a high level.

"It's a miracle," Bohlig admitted.

"He shouldn't be here," said June Bohlig, his mother. "He should be a statistic. God granted me a miracle."

How Bryant Bohlig went from heart transplant patient to boys basketball player in a few months is a story that intrigues.

No one will be happier about participating in the Tech at Apollo boys basketball game scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday than Bohlig.

And, June Bohlig hopes she can spread the word about not underestimating the significance of symptoms, like she did. Just because someone is young and appears to be in excellent health doesn't mean something can't be very wrong.

Feeling ill

Something was wrong. Bohlig, a quarterback, had led Tech's ninth-grade football team to a win over St. Cloud Apollo last fall. But, Bohlig felt tired, with a heavy chest.

"I thought I was out of shape or something," he said.

His mother, a nurse at St. Cloud Hospital, figured he had some sort of virus and needed a couple of days of bed rest.

It didn't get better, but Bohlig desperately wanted to suit up for Tech's varsity playoff game, so he trudged into practice. It nearly cost him his life.

"I thought I had a really bad stomach ache," Bohlig said. On Oct. 23, his mother guessed he needed an appendectomy.

Within hours after checking into St. Cloud Hospital, he was at the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital and on a list for a heart transplant.

His heart was found to be functioning at about 10 percent of normal. Much less and you generally go into cardiac arrest, June Bohlig said.

After some tests and analysis, it was determined he had something called permanent junctional reciprocating tachycardia, or PJRT.

"It was like the world just crumbled beneath us," June Bohlig said. "It was kind of a full-blown nightmare."

The diagnosis was a shock to the Bohlig family, a tight-knit group synonymous with Tech athletics. Bob Bohlig was a three-sport star for the Tigers and a former coach.

He co-owns Bohlig Cleaners, the family business. June is a St. Cloud Cathedral graduate and was also a three-sport athlete.

Oldest son Austin, a 2009 Tech graduate, is a student at St. Cloud State University who participated in football, basketball and golf. Sister Bobbi Bohlig is a girls basketball player at Tech and an outstanding golfer. She has accepted a scholarship to play golf at Minnesota State University-Mankato.

Next comes Bryant, who cried when he heard he may never be able to compete in athletics again.

"That would've been the worst," he said.

Surgery was performed with the intent of getting his heart rate under control.

He had arrhythmia, which made the heart function oddly and poorly. As his mother explained it, doctors tried to get his heart's wiring under control because it was going haywire.

Surgery was successful. A heart transplant would not be necessary. Like that, he was better.

The procedure, which can take anywhere from two to 20 hours, took 45 minutes.

An MRI showed no permanent damage. Basically, he's good to go, whether it's basketball, football or baseball. He competes in all of them.

Back in shape

"He is the reason he's better," June Bohlig said. "He is so diligent."

He works out three times a week with other cardiac patients at St. Cloud Hospital.

Recurring checkups have determined he is fine to participate in activities and basically live his life like any normal, athletic teenager.

"Tech High School couldn't have been better to us," June Bohlig said. "I can't say enough good things about the school and all the support and calls."

Paul Kaczor, a captain on the football team, visited Bohlig in the hospital.

He wasn't the only one.

"I went from 500 friends on Facebook to 1,000," he said. "I had about 1,000 statuses on it."

"I didn't know how many friends I had. One thing that was really great was that there are a lot of people looking out for me, all my friends and family praying for me, and especially the people at Tech High School. It was great."

He is on medication to control his heart rate.

He is staying away from foods he loves: sunflower seeds and beef jerky are two no-nos.

But he's happy and thankful. He has a lot of support. He's back at school and he's playing sports again.

"I guess I have something to do in this world still," Bohlig said. "God is always on my side. There must be something in this world I've got to do.

"It could be anything."

(Copyright 2012 Gannett Co. Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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