Isaiah Austin, one of college basketball’s top players, and Owen Gray, a 13 year old basketball player from Texas, have an unlikely bond.
Not only do they share a love of basketball, but they recently learned that they both share the same medical condition, Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects about 1 in 5,000 people.
Since Marfan Syndrome impacts the heart, both athletes have had to stop playing basketball as there is too much risk of a serious heart issue occurring.
When Isiah learned of his condition, it was only a few days before the NBA draft, where he as expected to be chosen in the first round and sign a multi-million dollar contract. Then, just a few weeks after learning of Isaiah’s diagnosis, Owen’s father decided to have him tested at Texas Children’s Hospital. They received the same news.
But their real bond is not defined by basketball or even Marfan Syndrome. Their bigger bond is seen in the courage and optimism that they both have exhibited since their diagnosis.
Although the news that Isiah could not play in the NBA was devastating to him, he immediately made a commitment to make it ‘his story, not his saga’. He dedicated himself to not only having a positive outlook, but bringing awareness to Marfan Syndrome and to inspiring others to overcome their adversities.
His extremely positive attitude in the face of this great challenge immediately caught Owen’s attention. As reported on the Texas Children’s Hospital blog, “when Owen learned that Isaiah established a foundation to raise awareness for Marfan syndrome, he wanted to do something to help. Within a matter of weeks, he sprung into action and raised more than $17,000 through a letter writing campaign, a vast effort on social media and word of mouth. People from all over the country donated to the worthy cause. Owen’s face lit up as he was honored at the (the foundation’s first) event. (Owen’s) name appeared as one of three platinum sponsors of the event – next to the NBA and the Dallas Mavericks!”
Owen is now working with the Marfan Foundation to begin a support group to bring the Marfan community together in the Houston area to raise money and awareness for Marfan syndrome. And Owen also serves his basketball teammates by being the team manager and score book keeper. As his father, Rod Gray says, “he does not see Marfan syndrome as the end of his competitive basketball career – only an exciting new opportunity for him to make a difference in the lives of others.”
Owen and Isaiah’s remarkable attitudes and courage are a great example for younger and older people alike. It will be interesting to follow their paths as they continue to leave their mark on the world. In the meantime, check out these inspiring videos of Isiaah Austin when as he was honored by the NBA as a ceremonial first round draft pick.
- Read more about Owen’s story and his support of Isaiah here on the Texas Children’s Hospital blog
- Check out this graphic that shows some of the characteristics of people with Marfan’s Syndrome
- Here is an inspiring article that describes Isaiah Austin’s outlook on life
- Watch other great IMK stories about children and adults that exhibit perseverance or who show great courage in spite of their disabilities
- Read IMK’s list of great quotes for kids about the importance of perseverance or being proactive and taking action
Topics for Discussion:
- What bonds Isaiah and Owen together?
- Stop for a minute and imagine having to immediately and permanently stop doing the activity that you enjoy most. How would you react?
- What is one lesson you can learn and apply in your own life from Owen?
- Help Isaiah’s Foundation bring awareness and research funding to Marfan Syndrome and support to those affected by it
- Here is a link to a Critical Reading Skills worksheet that you can use for elementary school students.
- Here is a link to a Critical Reading Skills worksheet that you can use for middle school students.