Fear has been stalking BreeAnne Campbell, but instead of running away, she has turned around and met her advisory face to face.
She just doesn’t scare easy.
The Manatee High senior will compete in her regional track meet Thursday with a chance to go to states if she finishes in the top four in the shotput or discus.
Less than six months ago, Campbell went through seven hours of open heart surgery for Wolf Parkinson White syndrome, known in layman’s terms as a rapid heartbeat. Shortly afterward, she he had to go through another six hours of surgery to complete what the doctors couldn’t finish.
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When the track season is over and Campbell walks through the graduation line, she will again have to go under a surgeon’s knife, hopefully to correct the problem so she can continue her athletic career and lead a normal life.
She could avoid a lot of this and lead a sedentary life, but that wouldn’t be her. She won’t give in.
Through it all, Campbell has never complained or sought sympathy. She wears a red badge of courage on her heart that can be seen by the people familiar with her ordeal.
Fear has been in her shadow, but the 17-year-old won’t let it disrupt her life. Her biggest worry is she won’t be able to continue her athletic career.
“You’ve got to keep moving forward and not let anything stop you,” Campbell said. “You can’t give into fear. My family gives me a lot of love and support, and they are a big reason I am the way I am.”
Her parents, Lisa and Shawn Campbell, the former Manatee High boys basketball coach, have provided inspiration to their daughter, but she has also taught them valuable lessons.
“I learned that nothing can hold you down. It’s all a matter of attitude. It’s in your mind whether you can do something or not,” Lisa said. “BreeAnne is a fighter and overcomes. After her surgeries, she missed a lot of school but still managed to get a 4.0 grade-point average and get herself back in shape to throw the shot and discus.”
BreeAnne is no stranger to misfortune. As a 2-year-old, she was attacked by a dog and had to undergo reconstructive surgery. At age 8, she had multiple surgeries for cancer, and she is still not out of the woods in her current ordeal.
Last Sunday, four days before her district track meet, BreeAnne was in a car accident, which caused her neck and back injuries and left her knees sore. Sitting out the meet never entered her mind. She won the shotput and finished third in the discus.
Heroes are often spawned by other heroes, and one of BreeAnne’s is Stephanie Brown, the Team USA discus gold medal winner in the 2008 Olympics. She met Brown six years ago at workout in Utah, and the two have kept in touch since.
“She is my hero. She taught me things that I can improve on for my technique, and before surgery she sent me a package with her Olympic T-shirt and a letter that was very positive,” Campbell said.
BreeAnne has offers from more than 10 Division I colleges. Her personal best in the shot put is 37 feet, 8 inches, which would’ve put her in the top seven at last year’s Class 3A state meet.
“My heart bothers me every once in a while, but I haven’t had a serious attack since surgery,” BreeAnne said.
“I don’t feel like I am fully there yet. After surgery in June I hope to be back to normal. I think about what if it happens again. I am prepared for it now and know what to do. Put ice on my face and go into a hand-stand. That’s supposed to calm down my heart.”