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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Fighting asthma, Calhoun athlete inspires
(Page 2 of 3)
Courtesy Thresa Grady
Austin Hecker is a Calhoun High School senior who competes in sports at a high level despite having exercise induced bronchospasm, also known as exercise induced asthma. His mom, Heidi Hecker, right, is participating in a contest that is meant to raise awareness about EIB.

In hindsight, his EIB symptoms began revealing themselves then, Heidi said, but the family attributed his coughing and wheezing to other causes at the time. “We just thought he was pushing himself hard,” Heidi said.

Austin’s condition worsened when he got to Calhoun High School and began pushing himself even harder in sports. He joined the cross-country team and ran 500 miles during one summer to prepare for the next cross-country season. He also joined a private gym in Syosset to train for wrestling competitions, and he was still swimming competitively on the Newbridge team.

Austin said strenuous exercise started causing him breathing problems.

“When it’s cold out, or when I push myself, I would cough really badly,” Austin said. “I would wheeze. My chest would become tight. It would be difficult to keep going.”

Austin went to numerous doctors, but they missed the underlying EIB.

“At the end of 10th-grade cross-country, he was pretty bad,” Heidi recalled.

When Austin had another episode with difficulty breathing at the start of the wrestling season that winter, his mother insisted that he immediately see a doctor, while his symptoms were still present.

“They recognized then that it was EIB and had him see a pulmonologist,” Heidi said.

Austin said he was prescribed an inhaler, and his family bought an air filter for his room to try to decrease the presence of irritating allergens. EIB “still affects me, but not as much before,” Austin said.

Austin has had much success on the track and the wrestling mat. He has been part of division- and county-title-winning cross-county and track teams at Calhoun, ran a sub-five-minute mile, and won or placed second in multiple wrestling tournaments. A senior in high school now, Austin will attend Stony Brook University next fall, where he is enrolled in the school’s health science major and will participate on the school’s wrestling team.

A proud mother, Heidi called her son an “inspiration” for his teammates. “He doesn’t have an off button,” Heidi said. “He just keeps going. It kind of shows him the incredible leadership quality in him. The other kids that are on the team … they understand that he has this issue. But he participates 100 percent. That makes them want to work hard too.”

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