After sinking his first shot, Sam Dindoffer was getting ready to perform the same routine he always did before a free throw.
Two bounces, a spin and then shoot.
Sam was in the eighth grade at the time, playing in his basketball league’s championship game. Every point was important. Before he could complete his pre-free throw routine, however, Sam had a bad feeling. It was a feeling with which he was very familiar.
Something wasn’t right, but he still needed to make the shot.
Just the Beginning
In the fifth grade, Sam was diagnosed with a brain tumor, the first sign of which came in the form of seizures. He had surgery to remove the tumor, which revealed that it was not cancerous.
“We thought that was going to be the end of it,” said DeLynn Dindoffer, Sam’s mother.
Unfortunately, three months later, the seizures started again. At this point, Sam was diagnosed with epilepsy, a central nervous system disorder. Sam was put on medication to combat the seizures, which was effective but made him lethargic.
“School was hard and basketball was hard,” he said. “Everything I did was really slow. I didn’t get to play that much, and that was really difficult.”
Sam stayed on the medication all the way through seventh grade. Despite always feeling tired, he did his best to play basketball as much as possible.
“I wanted to keep going because I knew I wouldn’t get any better if I sat out for a year,” he said. “That wasn’t going to help me at all.”
Making the Shot
That bad feeling Sam had at the free throw line was another seizure. He knew it was coming and that he had to get the shot off before it got worse.
After abbreviating his routine, he threw a shot up off the backboard and into the net.
“My husband and I looked at each other because it looked really odd,” DeLynn said. “He still made it, but he banked it in. He usually doesn’t do that.”
After he sunk the shot, Sam walked directly to his team’s bench. He said he doesn’t remember anything after the first shot.
“They said I banked it in,” he said, “so at least I made it.”
Seven Months Since
Two years after the initial surgery to remove the tumor, Sam came to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for a second surgery with Joshua Chern, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatric neurosurgeon.
“I really liked Dr. Chern,” Sam said. “I felt like I clicked with him. He treated me like I was older. He wanted my opinion. I really liked that.”
Dr. Chern performed a temporal lobe resection, a form of brain surgery that removes the part of the brain that produces seizures. Four weeks later, however, Sam experienced more seizures.
During the summer of 2013, Dr. Chern performed a two-part surgery to help alleviate Sam’s seizures. In the first surgery, a grid was implanted to monitor Sam’s brain activity. The part of the brain causing the seizures was removed in the second surgery.
Sam has been seizure-free for the seven months since the last surgery in August. He is still on seizure medications, but that medication will gradually be reduced during the next two years.
Now 15 years old, Sam was home schooled during the 2013-2014 school year to help recover from the two surgeries, but he has not lost sight of his basketball goals. He plans to play through high school at Christian Heritage School and maybe in college.
“Sam has made this work partly because of his own determination, hard work and because he loves basketball,” his mother said. “He just kept on.”