Beat goes on for lo­cal stu­dent: Heart trans­plant and drum kit

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - DAILYLINE - RON KAN­TOWSKI LV IN­SIDER Con­tact Ron Kan­towski at rkan­towski@re­viewjour­nal. com or 702-383-0352. Fol­low @ronkan­towski on Twit­ter.

IN the five years since his foun­da­tion was founded to cre­ate aware­ness in or­gan do­na­tion, Si­mon Keith has raised more than a mil­lion dol­lars for young­sters in need of trans­plants.

It goes with­out say­ing the gen­eros­ity of his bene­fac­tors pro­vides an in­valu­able and life­sav­ing re­source.

But emo­tion­ally it’s still mostly about the smiles and ex­pres­sions of grat­i­tude wit­nessed Thurs­day morn­ing at Som­er­set Academy in North Las Ve­gas.

“These kids we rec­og­nize is with­out a doubt the best thing we get to do at the foun­da­tion,” said Keith, a 53-year-old for­mer UNLV soc­cer star and one of the world’s long­est sur­viv­ing heart trans­plant re­cip­i­ents. “These kids are so tough, so re­silient what they have to go through.”

The tough and re­silient one rec­og­nized this year was 13-year-old Osker Gam­boa, an eighth-grader at Som­er­set.

“He was 9 years old when he was di­ag­nosed with hy­per­trophic car­diomy­opa­thy,” said his mother, Kim Blas, about 11 syl­la­bles a par­ent never wants to hear about a child. “We were pretty bro­ken when we found out.”

In April 2017, when he was 11, Osker re­ceived a heart trans­plant. He doesn’t get pulled out of PE class any­more.

“First of all, I want to thank the donor fam­ily,” his mother said, fight­ing back tears. “It’s su­per im­por­tant they know Osker is do­ing good things (to honor) their loved one. He couldn’t have a bet­ter life. At the same time, when we re­ceived that call, we were mourn­ing for the loss of a loved one.”

Blas said the sup­port pro­vided by Keith and the foun­da­tion when Osker en­coun­tered health is­sues symp­to­matic of such a del­i­cate pro­ce­dure was im­mea­sur­able.

So, too, was the drum kit. “When Osker was hav­ing a hard time and strug­gling and go­ing through the day-to-day doc­tor’s ap­point­ments — the pok­ing, the prod­ding, the ex­ams, the rest­ing — they gifted him with a drum set. He wanted to play the drums,” Blas said.

“Not only do I be­lieve it was a way for him to (deal with) his frus­tra­tions — that he got to beat on the drums — but it also took his mind away from things. The Si­mon Keith Foun­da­tion was in­stru­men­tal in re­liev­ing some of that daily stress of go­ing through the trans­plant process.”

The en­tire eighth-grade class at Som­er­set con­vened to ap­plaud her son at a sur­prise assem­bly dur­ing which Osker also wiped away tears. “When I saw Si­mon, I kind of got sus­pi­cious,” he said af­ter­ward with a rosy-cheeked grin.

Ap­pre­cia­tive and thank­ful be­yond words, Osker Gam­boa held a bal­loon while the eighth grade gathered around him for a class photo that most kids only take for granted.

Ir­ish hurl­ing ex­plained

With UFC su­per­star Conor McGre­gor’s le­gions of Ir­ish fans still re­group­ing from an evening of fisticuffs, round­house kicks and whiskey drink­ing, it seems like the ideal time to point out the dif­fer­ences in the two types of Ir­ish hurl­ing.

The first usu­ally oc­curs when too many shots of Jame­son (or McGre­gor’s own Proper 12 brand) are con­sumed in one sit­ting. This is the kind of Ir­ish hurl­ing prac­ticed by Amer­i­can frat boys on St. Pa­trick’s Day.

The other form is an an­cient game of Gaelic and Ir­ish ori­gin played with sticks and a ball. Hurl­ing is a phys­i­cal sport. But like most Ir­ish games, pro­tec­tive pad­ding is not per­mit­ted (other than a rudi­men­tary hel­met).

Top hurlers over the years — and that’s putting it mildly, con­sid­er­ing there have been around 4,000 years of hurl­ing — in­clude Christy Ring of Cork, Henry Sh­ef­flin of Kilkenny, Mick Mackey of Lim­er­ick, Nickey Rackard of Wex­ford and Jimmy Doyle of Tip­per­ary.

Never heard of those lads? That’s OK. Most proper Ir­ish­men have never heard of Mur­der­ers’ Row, ei­ther.

“Ir­ish hurl­ing is def­i­nitely one of the most elec­tri­fy­ing sports to watch,” Cor­mac David­son, a fan of Ir­ish hurl­ing (the sec­ond kind) and McGre­gor, said at Wed­nes­day’s UFC 229 open work­outs at Park Theater at Park MGM. “The best part about it is none of those guys get paid a cent for what they do.”

Per­haps new hel­mets are called for.

As for the other form of Ir­ish hurl­ing and whether David­son and his pals planned to par­take, it was far too early in the day to pre­dict.

Bizuayehu Tes­faye˜Las Ve­gas Re­view-Jour­nal @bizutes­faye

Som­er­set Academy eighth-grader Osker Gam­boa, who re­ceived a heart trans­plant on April 30, 2017, hugs his prin­ci­pal, Kenyan Martinez, af­ter be­ing hon­ored Thurs­day by Si­mon Keith, not pic­tured, founder of the Si­mon Keith Foun­da­tion and one of the long­est liv­ing or­gan trans­plant re­cip­i­ents.

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