Greg Olson isn’t just known as one of the best tight ends in the NFL today; he’s also a fantastic speaker who has a way with words. That’s abundantly clear in the essay he just published in the Players Tribune, in which he lays his heart bare and tells the story of an illness that has brought incredible anxiety and pain to his family.
While Olson’s wife Kara was pregnant with twins, they learned that one of the twins, the boy, had a very rare heart condition known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Essentially, the left half of their son’s heart would be underformed and unable to pump enough blood to his body to keep him alive. Without treatment, babies born with this condition cannot survive more than a few days. The news was horrifying and led to constant worry. The only possible option was for their son to have three open heart surgeries; one in the first 72 hours of life, one three months later and another at three years of age.
In the article, Olson articulates the pain, anxiety and trauma of the situation so vividly that you can’t help but tear up. He shares the story of how Jerry Richardson, the Panthers owner, gave him a personal phone call and offered to use his private plane to fly Olson and his family to Boston so that they could speak with a doctor who specializes in the condition. Finally, he shares how the ordeal inspired his family to give back and set up a foundation to help parents who have children with the condition be able to afford the 24/7 nursing care they need in the first few years to help their children survive.
We were prepared for a lot of things going into surgery. But nothing — nothing — can prepare you for seeing your baby in that condition.
It’s a heartbreaking and beautiful story that helps keep things in perspective and makes you appreciate everything you have. You can read the full essay here.