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Kansas State Student Athlete Spotlight: Tanner Witt
April 27, 2012

By Monica Vega
Big 12 Campus Correspondent

K-State junior shortstop Tanner Witt never imagined that lifting weights during his high school offseason would lead to the scary discovery of a blood clot and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. He didn't know that at the age of 17 he was going to be faced with a decision that could change his life.

Witt's major vein in his upper chest was being restricted where the rib and collarbone intersected. He also had a two inch blood clot around the same area. When Witt was diagnosed he was given two options: chose to have the blood clot removed through an extensive procedure or take blood thinners for the rest of his life, which would lead to never playing a contact sport again.

Witt did not hesitate when making his decision. He would have the surgery.

"I knew that getting the surgery was the right thing for me. I didn't want to do pills and get shots that wasn't fun I knew what I had to do." said Witt.

His family was behind Witt's decision and wanted to do anything that would keep healthy, but would give him a chance to play baseball again.

"There was never any question. He never wavered when he was told he had two choices. Tanner looked the doctor in the eye and said he would be at the hospital at 6 a.m. the next morning for the surgery." said Witt's mother, Lorrie.

Dr. Robert Thompson, one of the leading TOS surgeons in the country, would be doing the surgery. The surgery would be 10 hours long and included the doctor removing two muscles from his neck, removing the top rib, doing a three vein bypass and attaching the artery to vein on his right wrist to increase blood flow to the heart. Witt had to stay in intensive care for a week and in the hospital for a week after.

Witt trusted in Thompson, who had done the procedures for prominent names such as Dave McKay, the first base coach of the Chicago Cubs. To help put Witt more at ease, Thompson arranged for McKay to meet with Witt after the surgery. In their meeting they discussed what McKay had gone through and how he dealt with his son going through injuries in high school. It gave Witt hope through his rehab and recovery. After three months of recovery he would be cleared for any sport. Throughout this time prayer and faith was very important to the Witt family.

Staying motivated throughout his recovery didn't come hard for Witt. He believed that he would play again to his full potential. He also wanted to stay strong to be able to play in college. He started to come back to the game slowly by trying to develop skills little by little after his recovery. Witt's father, Tommy Witt, was a strong influence on him and his positivity.

"Once I found out how successful Dr. Thompson's surgeries had been on other athletes I was able to honestly encourage Tanner," said Tommy Witt. "I tried to let him know that God had led him to Dr. Thompson. He had done the surgery. He now had to fight the mental monsters of rehab and sitting on the bench in his uniform while his state ranked team played without him. I told him how important it was for him to be part of the team and encourage his teammates."

Missing most of his junior year and summer season of baseball, Witt knew that he had missed important meetings with college recruiters. He was still hopeful that when he came back to the game he would be recruited. It was important for him to play for someone who knew his abilities before the surgery and understood all he went through.

That is how Witt found a home at K-State.

K-State baseball coach Brad Hill knew Witt was on people's radars early. He saw the courage he showed the surgery and recovery. Hill and his staff believed he would be a great competitor, multifaceted, and an asset to K-State.

"He is what you define as a baseball player, the toughness of the kid; to be able to bounce back like that he is tough," said Hill.

Presently at K-State, Witt is known as a leader of the team and tries to help his teammates through tough times.

"He is really maturing as a baseball player, but he is a spark plug for us. He plays many positions and he is one of those guys we look to for spark and energy," said Hill.

Witt is looking forward to the future, hoping that baseball will be in the works for the long run.

"I don't take anything for granted when a lot of my junior year, the most important year of baseball, was taken away. It was a reality check. Now I just keep playing one day at a time," said Witt.

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