ALLPORT — Logan Liptak has made quite the name for himself in his short life on earth.
The West Branch 13-year-old was diagnosed with a heart condition at six years old. Despite that, Liptak has continued to live life to the fullest, giving 100 percent to everything he does, including playing multiple sports.
Liptak was diagnosed when his mother, Alisa, took him to Mount Nittany Medical Center on a Saturday night when he was six with what she thought was strep throat.
“While there the PA asked me to tell her about his murmur,” Alisa Liptak said. “I immediately lost my cool and told her I wasn’t here for a murmur, my son needed a strep test and antibiotic. The doctor appeared moments later asking me to call my husband in. She stated, “there’s something wrong with your son’s heart and no one is doing anything until we find out what it is.”
The tests eventually showed that Liptak had a bicuspid aortic valve. Some people are born with a bicuspid aortic valve, in which the aortic valve — located between the lower left heart chamber (left ventricle) and the main artery that leads to the body (aorta) — has only two (bicuspid) cusps instead of three. It requires care from a pediatric cardiologist and can limit some activities.
One of those activities that Liptak was stopped from continuing with was wrestling.
“Logan was at one point very active and a talented wrestler,” said his mom Alisa. “As his valve deteriorated, our pediatric cardiologist at Geisinger, Dr. Fareed Ahmad, made it clear that he had to be finished wrestling and would never be able to be a weightlifter. Anything exertion related is off the table.”
Dr. Ahmad also warned the Liptaks about allowing Logan to play on the line in football.
“He also warned me against allowing my son to fall in love with sports, as he knows we will eventually be having conversations about what he can and can not continue to participate in,” Alisa said. “Unfortunately, Logan’s love of competition was full throttle long before his diagnosis, especially with two older siblings at home.”
Both of Liptak’s siblings are athletes. His sister, Alexis runs track, while his brother Luke also participates in many sports, including baseball and football. Dad Jonathan played semi-pro football with the DuBois Mountain Lions for several years as well.
Despite his heart issue, Liptak has continued to put 100 percent into several sports, including baseball, basketball, football, track and golf.
His mom said Liptak was destined to be an athlete.
“He played soccer at four years old and when his brother went to practice, Logan had to play too,” said Alisa. “He fell in love with wrestling watching Luke go to practice, and before he was in kindergarten was on the mat with the West Branch coaches nicknaming him ‘Fred’ because they already had so many Logans on the team.
“Baseball would follow suit in the very same way. Coaches allowing him to go to practice with his big brother. As a toddler we called him Logi McQueen. He was always on the go and always fast.
“To this day he loves running, and the YMCA elementary track program was a highlight for him. He can’t wait to really be a sprinter. Logan played flag football and eventually with the permission of his cardiologist put on pads in fifth grade for the Warrior Youth Program that my dad (Alvin Hubler) oversees at West Branch Elementary.”
Still, Liptak’s mom said she gets just as concerned as any parent would on the sidelines.
“Later in the season with the absence of a teammate and getting moved up to the starting roster, we were reminded of just how small he was when he took a massive hit from a massive boy in his last game,” she said. “My heart stopped that day. My breath was held. I couldn’t move. I had been practicing the ‘stay in the stands, don’t make a scene mom’ act for years. On that day, it was Dad (Jonathan) running to the fence!
“We’ve since come up with a sign, if they need me they give me the sign. If they don’t give it to me, Pop and the trainer have them covered.”
Despite his limits, Liptak has shown not only a passion for sports, but a real talent. He was named Player of the Game during junior and was rewarded by being allowed to watch the varsity game from the sidelines.
His mom said that they now have a pretty good handle on a condition that can be unpredictable at best.
“The very first thing I know to ask for is his blood pressure,” Alisa said. “The cardiologist taught me that. It’s the fastest way to see if his valve has ruptured. I also notice that after a particularly hot or hard practice or game he is always tired. He sleeps more than anyone I’ve ever met and he’s not even a teenager, yet.
“Fevers are a definite deal breaker for Logan. Even a fever from a typical virus puts so much stress on his heart that it becomes a danger. And in addition to having to avoid those instances, he has antibiotic allergies as well, which can get tricky when trying to keep him healthy.”
Liptak says he likes to play sports because, “It lets me be active and it lets me scream and holler. It lets me be with my teammates and takes the focus off what is wrong. Sports just let me be me!”
Liptak said his favorite sport is basketball.
“Logan is new to playing basketball as it replaced wrestling for him,” said Alisa. “Being a small guy in a tall guy sport is tough. We’ve always known that guys with Logan’s defect are petite and remain so most of their lives. But his large personality and determination are easily identified on the court, field, track, diamond or wherever he is competing.”
While his mom said it’s tough to watch him when he isn’t feeling well, she thinks that allowing him to participate in sports helps him stay healthy and focused on something other than his condition.
“If there is a child like Logan out there who has as much heart, be it broken in its own way, my advice is to let him/her live,” Alisa Liptak said. “Let them be rough and tumble, let them be a kid and let them get dirty and dust themselves off. There is so much uncertainty in their future that it is important to let them enjoy the now.”
In addition to all of his athletic activities, Liptak also raises money for the American Heart Association. He participated in the Centre Heart Walk and has currently raised $12,000. He has a goal to raise $17,000 by the time he turns 17.
Liptak’s mom said that it was a visit to the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville that helped spur that determination to raise money.
“While admitted to Janet Weiss a few years back, we saw first hand kiddos like Logan who weren’t as stable and not as blessed with health,” said Alisa. “Seeing that in person really resonated with him and fueled his motivation even more so.
“His nurse after hearing about his AHA endeavors told us about funding that Janet Weis gets from AHA. Knowing that the money we were raising was staying in our community, helping kids we knew and were getting to meet at AHA events, was encouraging.
“It’s not lost on me that not every heart mom gets the outcome that I have. But, it’s also not lost on me that my son faces an uncertain future that can change at any moment.”
While the condition is serious, one only needs to listen to the very wise words of Logan, who says he lives by his own personal motto.
“I’m designed to survive, and I’ll never give up!”