Shyatt: "I'll be with Dwon every step of the way"

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - When Larry Shyatt found out about Dwon Clifton's heart condition, one which likely will end the Clemson sophomore's basketball career, his mind was flooded with thoughts.

Among them: how lucky Clifton is at this particular moment.

It sounds strange at first, but then Shyatt rattles off two names which drive home his point - Pete Maravich and Hank Gathers. Both players died as a result of their heart ailments; Gathers after ignoring a warning, Maravich with no warning at all.

Clifton, at least, got fair warning and now can get on with the rest of his life.

"It was a shock for him, to be sure," Shyatt said during a Thursday teleconference. "It was a difficult thing because it happened so quickly, but I told him he should be thankful to get the early warning. I gave him the best fatherly advice I could, and told him I'd be with him every step of the way."

Clifton was diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome on Wednesday, an electrical disorder which can cause the heart to beat in an abnormal rhythm. It becomes a factor after strenuous activity - such as playing basketball - when the QT interval, or time it takes for the heart to relax, is prolonged.

If untreated, the result often is cardiac death.

The results came to light after Clifton fainted toward the end of an individual workout last week. Initially it was believed Clifton had suffered a seizure, but team doctor Byron Harder pushed for more tests. When the first heart exam results came back, doctors saw something they thought warranted further investigation.

The results of those tests, confirming the diagnosis, came back Wednesday.

Shyatt said he met with his team and told them the news, and their response was predictable.

"They were surprised. You know, when you're young you think you're indestructable. But I think we've seen in the last (month) that possibly we take things for granted most times," Shyatt said, referring to the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington."

Now the focus is on the continued tests Clifton will undergo, both at area hospitals and at Emory Hospital in Atlanta.

Among the goals is to try and discover how long Clifton has had the disease, and what may have caused it. Long QT Syndrome usually is hereditary, but can be brought on by use of certain prescription drugs. Clifton told doctors he could recall only one similar incident, a near-fainting spell that took place last season when Clemson was involved in a tournament in Puerto Rico.

Once those tests are completed, and if the results are as expected, Shyatt promised to keep Clifton involved in the basketball program.

"We will find a way for Dwon to have a fruitful career at Clemson University," he said. "But at no time will we put anything ahead of his health, I can promise you that."

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