Still recovering, Hegland happy to be back with after medical scare

South Hamilton junior Aaron Hegland will be in uniform when the Hawks face Rock Valley at the state tournament this evening. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

JEWELL — Dawn Hegland takes a moment to compose herself as she thinks back to the night of Feb. 2. In an instant, feelings of excitement and anticipation gave way to dread, the type only a mother can understand.

She was in the stands watching the South Hamilton boys’ basketball team’s nail-biting game against Heart of Iowa Conference rival Gilbert when, between the third and fourth quarters, her son Aaron slumped on the Hawks’ bench. He was eventually moved to the floor as a seizure overtook his body.

“It was scary,” Dawn said after a moment. “You know there’s something going on and it’s hard to watch when he has no control over what he’s doing. You saw him shaking and you knew everybody was working on him. You’re just hoping that everything is OK and you’re praying.”

For 24 minutes, the near capacity crowd sat silently as medical personnel attended to Aaron. He was eventually transported by ambulance to Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames.

Aaron’s ordeal began with 1:19 remaining in the third quarter when he took a charge from Gilbert’s Jack Dresser. Although his head never crashed into the hardwood, the collision and jolt to his body caused a subarachnoid hemorrhage, or bleeding in the space around the brain, and that eventually led to the seizure.

Aaron Hegland (right) celebrates with teammates following South Hamilton’s substate victory over New Hampton. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Aaron came off the floor moments later and he knew almost instantly that something wasn’t right.

“I knew that I didn’t feel right,” he said. “I was dizzy, but not too bad. (Team trainer) Tim (Schlorholtz) asked me a couple questions and I responded to the first one, but soon after that I began to doze off. After three or four minutes, that’s when I began to lose it.”

Aaron, who was playing well with five points and three rebounds in a little more than eight minutes of court time, can remember taking the charge and coming off the floor. But from there his memory is blank.

“In the film, you can see I’m following the plays, but I’m not reacting to anything,” Aaron said. “I can’t say I remember anything that happened.”

As Aaron laid just in front of the South Hamilton bench, school personnel went into action. A number of ice bags were placed on his body to bring his temperature under control, and after several tense minutes the seizure stopped. Even prior to the arrival of the ambulance, his mental faculties returned.

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“Once the seizure stopped, it seemed like he was functionally clear,” Dawn said. “It was almost like it never happened.”

Aaron was met by his teammates at the exit moments before he was put into the ambulance. He says his spirits were lifted minutes later when he was informed, somewhere between Jewell and Ames, that South Hamilton had pulled out a 67-63 victory to effectively clinch its third consecutive conference championship.

“The first thing I asked in the ambulance is if they could get me an update on the game,” Aaron said. “The team got a win and that’s really all I cared about.”

Aaron suffered from seizures as a toddler, although Dawn says his previous health problems were not related to the traumatic brain injury he suffered on Feb. 2.

Born prematurely, Aaron had a shunt inserted into his head when he was six months old to treat hydrocephalus, a condition in which excess cerebrospinal fluid builds up within the ventricles of the brain. And although Dawn says doctors aren’t certain, there’s a possibility that shunt helped to drain the blood following the incident.

“He maybe had a little benefit from the shunt,” Dawn said, noting Aaron was allowed to go home later that same night rather than spend time hospitalized.

The outpouring of support and well-wishes was welcomed by both Aaron and his family, and as they quickly discovered, there were people across the state concerned about his well being.

“As much as I did hate the attention, it was nice to see a community, and especially everyone from Gilbert, reaching out and making sure I was OK,” Aaron said. “It’s nice to see there are people like that all around.”

Dawn says the calls and texts of support came from other communities as well.

“It was Gilbert people, it was Nevada people, it was Roland-Story people … there were a lot of people texting us that night,” she said. “Everyone was praying for him and had us in their thoughts and that was tremendous.”

Aaron has been back with the team for several weeks now and although he hasn’t been medically cleared for contact, just being one of the guys again has raised his spirits.

“It’s a lot better than it was because I don’t like being the outcast and not being able to suit up,” he said. “I enjoy being out there even if I’m not able to get on the court.”

His presence has been uplifting for the Hawks, who will head to the state tournament this evening to take on Rock Valley in a Class 2A quarterfinal at 6:30 p.m. Aaron won’t figure into South Hamilton’s rotation, but just having him on the bench in uniform is enough.

“It’s been a big lift for him and the team,” South Hamilton head coach Nathan Hill said. “He’s a kid that was playing a nice role for us and I know it’s tough for him to now sit and watch, but these guys are such a close group that it’s nice to see one of their friends back with them.”