It was all fun-and-games until it became life-and-death for Bennett Hart.
The then 8-year-old was at basketball practice at the Fairborn YMCA when he collapsed.
“He went blue and fell on the floor,” his mother Amanda Hart said, recalling the first terrifying incident. “He was pulseless for a short amount of time.”
The traumatic episode led to a diagnosis that will impact Bennett for the rest of his life — a mutation of the cardiac sodium channel which effects his heart’s rhythm. A pacemaker — and later an internal defibrillator — were implanted, but other health incidents followed over the years. Most recently, he collapsed at baseball practice in 2020, early in his freshman year.
“There were 10 minutes without a heartbeat,” Amanda said. “His internal defibrillator shocked him six times and luckily the athletic trainers were there, and they shocked him twice with the external defibrillator.”
Basketball and baseball are now a thing of the past for Bennett — a student at the Greene County Career Center — but he hasn’t given up on sports entirely as he is in his third year as a Fairborn High School varsity bowler.
“He has been the bigger man, but I know it breaks his heart that he had to give up other sports,” Amanda said. “He has the capability, he has the talent, but his body just won’t allow it.”
Bennett’s heart rate is not supposed to exceed 120 beats per minute (BPM) to reduce the risk of a life-threatening emergency. It limits a wide range of activities from playing high intensity sports to riding scream-inducing roller coasters.
“Some days, I just want to sit in my room all day because I’m so aggravated,” Bennett said.
Then there are days like Monday — one to remember for the 17-year-old, who bowled his first 300 game in a high school match against Xenia at Bowl 10 Fairborn. A perfect game didn’t even cross his mind until his coach pulled him aside before the sixth frame.
“He told me I either needed to throw the ball harder or move to the left,” Bennett said.
He moved one board left and it was all he needed to finish the game the same way it started: perfect. And while mom’s heart might have been racing, watching from the concourse, Bennett remained calm.
“I was definitely excited, but I kept telling myself I needed to act like I’ve been there before,” he said.
Bennett, who has been on the lanes since he was 11, is averaging 195 this season. His previous high game was 290.
“I’m very proud of him that he has been able to push through all of his hard times and have something he can call his own,” Amanda said. “It’s very rewarding.”
Bowling has been a lifeline for the teen who almost lost his life on three separate occasions.
“I wouldn’t say it makes up completely for everything I can’t do, but it is nice to have something to look forward to,” Bennett said.
While the heart mutation will prevent him from following in his dad’s footsteps as a first responder, Bennett does now have family bragging rights when it comes to bowling.
“I’m the only one who has bowled a 300,” he said smiling.
Likely the first of many.
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