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Troy Athens High School football player's lung collapses during first game of season

Grant Vande Kerkhoff recovering from fourth collapsed lung episode

Grant Vande Kerkhoff with Troy Athens High School football teammates Colin Sitterlet and Mason Teeter. (Beaumont Hospital)

A junior on the Troy Athens High School football team suffered a collapsed lung during the team's first game of the season.

Grant Vande Kerkhoff, 16, is recovering from his fourth collapsed lung episode.

Vande Kerkhoff was rushed to Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak when he felt a familiar pain in his right side during the first football game of the season.

He was diagnosed with a spontaneous pneumothorax in April when his left lung collapsed while running across the baseball field during practice for the junior varsity team.

"I can't imagine not playing sports," Vande Kerkhoff said. "It's definitely a big part of who I am."

The condition causes tiny blebs or blisters to develop on the lungs, doctors said. When they rupture, the air leak and pressure causes lungs to collapse, officials said.

It's most common in tall, thin, teenage boys, according to experts.

Vande Kerkhoff sat out the baseball season, but shortly afterward, his right lung collapsed. Then the same thing happened again to his left lung.

Grant Vande Kerkhoff with his mother, Betsy. (Beaumont Hospital)

Each lung collapse required Vande Kerkhoff to have a chest tube put in to remove the excess air in the chest cavity and allow his lungs to refill. He then needed surgery to remove the blebs and a procedure to help the lung attach to the chest wall in hopes of preventing recurrences, according to medical officials.

He was eventually cleared to resume normal activity and played travel baseball before football season.

"I was just starting to feel like everything was getting back to normal when it happened again," Vande Kerkhoff said.

Dr. Begum Akay said Vande Kerkhoff will be able to resume other normal activity in four weeks and come off the bench for winter sports by the end of the year.

"The whole purpose of doing surgery is to let him live his life," Akay said. "We need him to recover first, but after that, I do not anticipate him having any restrictions. We don't want him to not do things because he's afraid it will happen again. I totally anticipate him having a normal and fulfilling sports experience.

"We don't really know if sports or activity causes the blisters to rupture. When it happens, a lot of my patients are just sitting on the sofa, watching TV."

Vande Kerkhoff's brother, Adam Vande Kerkhoff, 23, was told he couldn't play contact sports due to a genetic heart condition.

Grant Vande Kerkhoff with Troy Athens High School football teammates Colin Sitterlet and Mason Teeter. (Beaumont Hospital)

"Adam is very athletic and loves football," said Betsy Vande Kerkhoff, their mother. "He was very good at it. It kind of crushed him for a while."

Their other brother, Nick Vande Kerkhoff, 22, played football for Athens and received scholarship offers from small colleges.

"We definitely have a sports tradition in our family," Grant Vande Kerkhoff said. "All three of us love the game and love to play. My brothers have always encouraged me, making sure I never gave up. But I'm not doing this for my family. I'm doing it for me. I want to have fun and do the best I can, and I want other people with this condition to know they can do the same."

"We know Grant wants to play," Betsy Vande Kerkhoff said. "Our goal is to support him in any way we can."

Grant Vande Kerkhoff plans to return to the basketball court with his Troy recreation team and try out for the varsity baseball team in the spring. He hopes to be back on the football field for his senior year.

"Even though he has a frustrating disease, Grant has the best attitude," Akay said. "He's always trying to make the best of the situation."


About the Author:

Derick Hutchinson

Derick Hutchinson is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in communications and a focus in journalism. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.