ROCHESTER, Minn. (WCCO) –Many high school students have to go through adversity in order to play the sport they love. A Rochester floor hockey player has his own story to tell.
Todd Claeys has Down syndrome and has undergone two open-heart surgeries.
“Todd is a very energetic, very social young man. He just likes being around people,” said his mother, Laurie Claeys.
Maybe the only thing Todd likes more than being around people is being on the gymnasium floor with his teammates, holding a hockey stick in his hands. He is entering his senior year on the Rochester Raiders adapted co-ed floor hockey team.
“Todd not only is a fun kid to have around, he’s a great hockey player,” said Todd’s coach, Lance Dahl.
Todd was born with two severe heart conditions, which required open-heart surgery when he was 10 months old and again when he was 7 years old.
“The first one especially was the toughest. We were in the hospital for quite a lengthy stay during that one,” said his mother, Laurie Claeys.
Last winter, Todd learned that he needed a third heart surgery. But instead of going through another open-heart operation, this summer he underwent a procedure, receiving the first transcatheter valve ever.
“They said they were going ahead with it, and a couple of hours later they came out and said it was done,” said Laurie.
For the procedure, doctors at the Mayo Clinic inserted a catheter into Todd’s leg. The catheter then installed a new valve in Todd’s heart without opening his chest. The operation was a success and instead of spending a week in the hospital, he was there for one night.
“He showed up at camp the first day and I thought, ‘Oh great, Todd came to say ‘Hi’ to everybody.” His mom sad, ‘He can play, he’s full go,’ and he had that surgery a week-and-a-half before,” said coach Dahl.
Dahl said Todd is a good offensive player who brings energy to the game — three heart surgeries for someone who may have the biggest heart on the team.
No one will forget the first goal he scored.
“Everybody was just cheering crazy for him. And Todd, he kind of ran, did the shuffle up the court and had a stick above his head. He was pretty excited, so it’s not something I’ll forget,” said Laurie.
Todd said his parents and his older brother and sister have been his inspiration to play hockey. He is also involved in Special Olympics track and field.
The Rochester Raiders will play their first game of the season on Jan. 7. Todd said he’s feeling “140 percent” and would like to score 200 points this season.
WCCO-TV’s John Lauritsen Reports