9-Year-Old Aims to Become Top Archer While Fighting Heart Condition
FLORIDA, N.Y. -- Two years ago, Jeffrey Paes was like any other active 7-year-old participating in sports, but that changed on Christmas Eve 2014.
Jeffrey was diagnosed with a rare heart condition called Long QT Syndrome.
"The intervals between his heartbeat [are] long, so if his heart goes to beat before it's ready to beat, he can go into cardiac arrest," said Jeffrey's mother Jennifer Costello.
Jeffrey had to stop participating in all team contact sports.
"We didn't know what he could do, what he couldn't do, we didn't know how his life was going to be, if he was going to be able to do the things he loved anymore," Costello said.
"I can't do like baseball, lacrosse -- I can't do any of that. Mainly the only two sports I can do [are] archery and golf," Jeffrey said.
A year after his diagnosis, Jeffrey's mother purchased his first bow.
"Archery for me is actually fun, and I love doing competitive stuff and I love doing sports like that, so when we figured out to do this, I was like 'let me try it,' then I just fell straight in love with it," Paes said.
Jeffrey shoots more than 100 arrows a day for practice and is a member of a professional team.
"It's hard to get on a pro team like so young at my age," Paes said.
Jeffrey's already won numerous awards and state titles and is competing out of his age group. He will be named the New York State Youth Archer of the Year next month, but said he still gets a little nervous at each competition.
"I say in my mind, 'take my time,' because I do have a habit of rushing a little bit, so I just say in my mind 'just take my time,' " Paes said.
Jeffrey started a group called Shooting from the Heart, which teaches archery to kids who are unable to participate in contact sports. Jeffrey encourages kids who have similar conditions to get out and find an activity that suits their abilities.
"Everyone can do archery, everyone, so if they can do it, I really wish they could join my group from Shoot from the Heart and they can actually see if they like shooting a bow," Paes said.
Jeffrey still needs to be conscious of his heart condition and travels with a defibrillator. He’ll visit a cardiologist every six months for the rest of his life, or until a cure is found for his condition. But Jeffrey said now that he’s found his niche, all he focuses on is his bow and arrow.
"I love it, because there are like more people that actually do archery," Paes said.
Jeffrey currently has a bill waiting to be passed in the state Senate, called the "Jeffrey Bill," which would require all children to get an EKG before participating in any sporting activity.