College basketball star Isaiah Austin was just five days away from the NBA Draft when he received a medical diagnosis that changed his life.
Austin has Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that weakens the body's connective tissue.
It was a moment of recognition and emotion as Austin wiped away tears and embraced NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at the NBA Draft Thursday. Austin is honored, even though playing in the NBA will not be part of his future.
"We wanted to make sure that he fulfilled at least this part of his dream," Silver said at the ceremony.
"I was devastated, really," Austin said. "It's hard to get information like that, especially since I was - had been working so hard up to this point."
Austin, who played for Baylor University, now hopes to spread the word about his story and Marfan Syndrome.
Dr. Elizabeth McNally has patients with Marfans and runs the Cardiovascular Genetics Clinic at University of Chicago Medicine.
"Marfan's is a protein that affects a lot of different support structures within the body,"
McNally said. "It affects blood vessels, the eyes, the bony skeleton."
In fact, Austin has had problems with one retina since middle school, and he's partially blind. With Marfan Syndrome, the heart is also a concern, especially the aorta.
"You can have a weakening of that blood vessel, a dilation or enlargement of that blood vessel, and then in the worst case, the rupture of the aorta can be a life-threatening event," McNally said.
In 1986, Olympian Flo Hyman collapsed on the volleyball court and later died as a result of a ruptured aorta. She was just 31. At age 20, Austin is tackling the challenge by looking ahead.
"I'm just hoping to touch people's lives and let them know that any obstacle they are facing they can get through it," Austin said. "All they have to do is keep a positive mind and thank God for every moment they are on this earth."
Isaiah Austin hopes to spread awareness of Marfan Syndrome after diagnosis
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