WEST LINN, Ore. -- A Central Catholic football player was having heart surgery Monday after suffering a cardiac arrest just after he made the game-winning touchdown earlier this month.
Fans and fellow students brought 17-year-old Hayward Demison to tears this past Friday night with a standing ovation, when he was honored just before kickoff in the game against Jesuit.
His heart surgery began around 9 a.m., Monday, at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland, and was expected to end just after noon. Family members said the doctors told them they were encouraged that Demison's recovery may only take around six weeks, since he is such a strong young man, instead of the usual six months.
Demison has a defective, left coronary artery. It was a life-long ailment that had never been diagnosed until he collapsed and almost died during a recent football game against Canby.
"I love the game (of football) with all my heart, it's been my favorite thing to do since I was little," Demison, who plays tailback for the Rams, said days before the surgery.
A cardiac nurse who just happened to be in the bleachers watching the game rushed down to the sideline and saved Demison while the others around him were dazed and confused over why he had passed out and stopped breathing.
"I'm just happy that he's with us still," said Central Catholic's head football coach, Steve Pyne. "I'm just humbled by the whole thing... (Demison) had been diagnosed with athlete's asthma a couple years ago, we thought maybe he was just having an episode."
Demison will miss the rest of this football season but doctors said if all goes well with Monday's surgery and his recovery, he should be able to play football his senior year.
"I'm just going to keep my head up high and support my team no matter what," said Demison. "If it's God's will... next year, #21 will be back."