Paul Jaeger lives for the weekend; a proud grandpa, he’s always in the stands at his grandchildren's games. That was the game plan for 11-year-old Maverick’s big basketball tournament in mid-January, but this time, Jaeger would have a much different vantage point.
That’s because the morning of the first game, Jaeger had a major heart attack. When he arrived at Mercy Hospital Joplin, he learned that it wasn’t his first; he’d had several of them over the last few years, which damaged his heart. By that evening, he was in critical condition in Mercy’s intensive care unit, needing multiple bypasses. If his condition worsened overnight, he would need emergency surgery.
Jaeger’s family stayed close and many others traveled to town to be by his side – sitting, waiting and praying together. Maverick wanted to stick by his grandfather through the night and skip the rest of the tournament but by Sunday morning, Jaeger was having nothing of that.
Hard as it was to leave the hospital room that day, Maverick followed his grandfather’s orders to return to the court. He rejoined his teammates with a new mission: make his grandfather proud.
Maverick’s team, the Columbus (Kansas) Outlaws, ended up winning the championship game, and it was Maverick who stole the show. With 3.1 seconds left, and down by two points, he launched the game-winning shot from half court, putting his team ahead by one point. As the buzzer screeched, the crowd went wild, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
Better yet, it was all caught on camera. Maverick couldn’t wait to show his grandfather. With the help of a smartphone, Jaeger was able to watch – and cheer – from his hospital bed. That magical shot brought him the strength he needed for his upcoming heart surgery.
In the days ahead, Jaeger’s cardiologist, Dr. Jose Dehoyos, and his cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Stephen Meyer, balanced their faith and expertise – on both sides of the operating room. Jaeger remained on the balloon pump and ventilator to keep him alive.
A few days later, Jaeger would have his own magical moment. Defying the odds, his medical team was able to remove the balloon pump and ventilator. Jaeger bounced back, taking new steps on his road to recovery, and ready to cheer on his grandson again – this time, from the stands.