Will Stout’s goal of attending college on a full-ride athletic scholarship was in his grasp when he passed out while playing with his brother.
“All my extremities were purple,” said Will. “My heart muscle was thick and overgrowing. Doctors told me I had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and had suffered a mild stroke.”
Will was in the hospital for two months recovering. He finished high school from his hospital room, having homework delivered by his friends and coaches.
Worst of all his dream was shattered when doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to play sports again due to his condition.
“I was completely devastated,” said Will. “I had worked so hard to become a well-rounded athlete, and sports and teamwork is what makes me tick.”
As he navigated what he would do with his future, Will was in and out of the hospital for nearly a decade.
“I had fear and anxiety anytime I would feel out of breath or discomfort in my chest,” he said. “It led to many trips to the hospital.”
At age 26, Will had another blackout incident. This time, doctors would need to perform open-heart surgery to remove scar tissue and insert a defibrillator and pacemaker.
“It was very depressing, and I didn’t know how to move forward,” Will said. “I had no direction and no outlet for me to cope.”
In time, Will found a passion in entrepreneurship and opened his own business.
“It reminded me of sports – I could be competitive with myself to keep growing the business to be profitable,” he said. “One of the biggest reasons I’m successful is because of learning from others and being part of a team.”
Now 42, Will lives in Wayne with his wife, Stefani, and daughters, Callie and Rylie.
He has learned how to be active with his condition and is joining the American Heart Association’s team to help raise awareness and funds for heart and stroke research. Will is serving as chair of the Tri-County Heart Walk, which will take place Oct. 1 at Overpeck Park.
“One of the main reasons I wanted to get involved was to talk to kids and young adults who have the same limitations and tell them it’s ok – you’ll still be able to live your life,” Will said. “It was just a small blip not being able to do sports, but I didn’t realize it then.”
His passion is also deeply personal. His daughter, Callie, was diagnosed with a similar heart condition to his own.
“She has no restrictions yet, but she will have regular appointments to keep track of her health,” he said. “The work of the American Heart Association is so important, not only today, but for our future generations.”
To join Will at the Tri-County Heart Walk or create a team, visit heart.org/njtricountywalk.