BYU’s C.J. Lee plays on after rebounding from health scare

CJ Lee BYU BYU

BYU’s C.J. Lee plays on after rebounding from health scare

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BYU’s C.J. Lee plays on after rebounding from health scare

LAS VEGAS – C.J. Lee still doesn’t know why it happened.

In a way, he’s glad it did. It forced a new perspective on the 23-year-old.

“That humbles you big time,” Lee said of a scary episode over the summer that potentially could have ended his golf career. “You’ve got to take care of yourself.”

Lee, who plays college golf for BYU, had a major blood vessel in his small intestine burst, causing him to lose 60 percent of his blood by the time he reached a hospital on the night of June 17 after competing in the Southwestern Amateur in Scottsdale, Ariz. Doctors listed him in critical condition.

Over the next several hours, he would receive five blood transfusions. Medical staff came by frequently to make sure the transfusions were helping, and to ensure he was still breathing.

“It was pretty serious,” Lee said.

A gastroenterologist arrived the next day to figure out the issue. A two-hour surgery ensued, in which the burst vessel was found and cauterized. After three days, Lee was cleared to leave.

Lee noticed signs earlier that week he was internally bleeding, but he felt good in the following days, so he chose to ignore them.

He was in contention through two rounds at the Southwestern, but as he went to the bathroom in his host family’s home on the morning of June 16, he passed out. He felt lightheaded and weak, and his host family, aware of him passing out, was weary of his desire to still play.

And then on the way to the garage, Lee passed out again.

“It was like a cartoon,” Lee said.

The host family again objected, but Lee convinced them he could still play. Of course they took precautions, telling the tournament director that Lee was not well and needed supervision. The director and a medic followed Lee for his entire final 36 holes.

For those two days, a weak Lee put a wet towel over his face as he was driven to each shot. He finished in 69-73 and in a remarkable tie for 33rd.

That Saturday night, though, Lee vomited blood and was off to the hospital.

Lee had planned to fly home Sunday morning and then go to the hospital. Doctors told him if he had waited a day or two longer, he probably would’ve been in very critical condition. In that scenario, there’s a small chance that, until everything got going again, he would’ve been in a coma.

“And there are a lot of people that don’t wake up from comas,” Lee said.

He avoided that, but doctors did tell Lee he could have permanent side effects from this ordeal, as his muscles might react differently after not getting enough blood.

“I did think I might not golf again,” Lee said. “I was pretty scared.”

That didn’t happen. Lee has started in every event his senior season, posting a pair of top-25s.

“I can’t even tell you how excited I am to have him in the program and everything he offers,” said Bruce Brockbank, BYU’s coach. “He just gets things done.”

Lee was essentially recuperated within a month, but side effects persist. He takes iron supplements daily and has to monitor his exercise more closely.

He used to run 6 to 8 miles at a time, but he’s had to cut it back to 2 to 4 as he’s more easily prone to feeling lightheaded and dazed. He’s also more careful about checking if signs point to a doctor’s visit.

Lee chuckles at the fact that days after he was released from the hospital, he flew to Atlanta and competed in the Dogwood Invitational – fibbing to doctors that he would think about not going when they objected and prescribed bed rest.

“I’m sure (the doctors) don’t know that I actually went,” Lee said, smiling.

Lee was in a wheelchair when traveling in airports going home and then to the Dogwood.

“Being pushed around in a wheelchair, everyone’s looking at you (because you’re young)” Lee said. “It’s like, ‘All right, dude. I’m good to walk. I’m good to go.’ ”

While he maintains his humor, he knows if he’d taken precautions earlier the issue could’ve been resolved with simple medication (although Lee has never received an explanation why the blood vessel burst). And if he waited a little longer, it could’ve meant the end to a lot of things.

Mostly, he’s thankful.

“Whatever it is, whether it’s really serious or not, he bounces back,” Brockbank said. Gwk

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