Sport

Hearty again!

In-form Damion Lowe back with Reggae Boyz after treatment for arrhythmia

BY IAN BURNETT
Sport Editor

Friday, September 07, 2018

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PARSIPPANY, United States — He had worked extremely hard to develop his craft from an amateur status in Jamaica through to the professional ranks in the American leagues before finally achieving a lifelong dream of playing in Europe.

After leaving the Tampa Bay Rowdies last year, the 25-year-old experienced a tardy beginning at IK Start in the Norwegian First Division, but eventually he settled in and helped the club gain promotion to the Eliteserien (top league).

But as soon as he began cementing his place in the first team at IK Start, he was faced with a potentially life-changing diagnosis of arrhythmia — a medical term for an irregular heartbeat, where a person may feel dizzy or breathless, of like their heart is racing or fluttering.

Indeed, that's exactly what happened to Lowe, the son of former Reggae Boy Onandi.

He told the Jamaica Observer that he was at training one day when he felt unwell. He advised his coach and after permission was granted for him to discontinue practice, he felt dizzy and he noticed that his heart was “racing”.

The medical team then intervened and eventually the diagnosis was made. It was a very difficult time for Lowe, who decided to keep his condition private, even as he prepared to battle the unknown.

“It's been a long time, maybe a year now (that he has been absent from the Reggae Boyz set-up) because of injuries and a heart situation and stuff like that,” he said.

When pressed to explain the health condition, he said: “It is serious because anything with the heart is serious, but I did two surgeries to correct the arrhythmia, so it is good now. We found out what was the issue and we got that solved, so that is why I was missing from the national set-up for a while when the overseas-based players were invited.”

Medical journals have suggested that arrhythmias are rarely fatal, and Lowe has admitted that he's now mentally recovered from the career-threatening illness.

“Not any more. Obviously, when it just happened and I found out, yeah, I was in shock. I was worried and I was pretty much depressed, but it's life and I had a reality check with myself and I just said 'listen, this is the life you choose and you have to dig yourself out the hole'.

“Sometimes you are not going to have your family around you because they are thousands of miles away; you are in the situation and if you stop now you are not going to be the breadwinner anymore, so I had to basically be self-motivated and push myself; and obviously my club supported me 100 per cent and made sure I got proper medical attention, and everything went well.”

As a stark reminder, Lowe now sports an insertable cardiac monitor, a small device that is implanted just under the skin of the chest for cardiac monitoring.

His illness aside, the former Seattle Sounders Two 6'3” defender is beginning to enjoy his football again.

“It has been a roller coaster, but mostly good stuff. We are kind of struggling now with results; we are not losing, but we are getting a lot of ties, but it has been a good experience.

“The club has treated me well and I have been playing well. I think I'm in really good form now, getting back-to-back man of the match awards, getting clean sheets and getting high praises from the fans. For the most part, I can say 80 per cent of the time has been positive.”

The player who helped Jamaica to a runner-up spot in the last Concacaf Gold Cup tournament last year also admitted that he's now fully adapted to the club's style of play.

“It's mostly direct football; most teams just look for results, not try to play as much, the pretty Barca (Barcelona) system. Results matter because of the relegation system, but I've adapted well. It took me about a month after being there to settle in and make a name for myself, and now I think I've settled and have found my home and it's been good.

“I am used to the playing style, used to the opponents, so things have got a bit easier and I'm dominating my opponents now,” he reiterated.

And on rejoining the national team ahead of the qualification phase of the Concacaf Nations League, Lowe was ecstatic.

“I am happy to be here and see my friends and catch up and have a laugh and enjoy football and represent well.

“Outside of football, life is good; I'm pretty settled, pretty comfortable; the weather has its ups and downs, but it's football again and if you want to travel the world and play football at the highest level, you are going to face some really rough weather conditions. Other than that life is good, a family man now, so …” ended Lowe.

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