“I’ve had people out of the clear blue email me about what an amazing story he has,” said Karen Murray, Executive board member of the Marfan Foundation. “Here’s a kid you’d expect to be devastated, but in a few weeks he was willing to be a spokes person [for our organization] and wants to make a difference. He’s done countless interviews and talking about it like this make a difference. Our website went from (roughly) 38,000 hits to over 500,000 in that week of the draft.”
Austin’s story spread rapidly outside the sports world and has even inspired those who’ve privately dealt with it to share how they’ve dealt with this publicly.
“God has a plan for us,” said Ronald “Slim” Williams, co-founder of Cash Money Records alongside his brother, Bryan Williams A.K.A. Birdman, who was also diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome in the mid 2000’s. “We need to make people more aware of what it is. There are still some doctors and nurses who have never heard of it. I was being misdiagnosed for years with bronchitis or asthma and given steroids [for the perceived asthma], which lowered my heart my heart strength be making it work so hard.”
Slim, now 47 years old, says knowledge of the disease is key. He also hopes that with Austin’s story being so public, more youth leagues will screen for it.
“I don't understand how he went all through college and it was undetected. Someone had to know he had an enlarged heart or something.,” Williams said.
Austin himself shares in the hopes that his story leads to better awareness, earlier diagnosis being one of the top priorities.
“I hope that more colleges start to screen for it," added Austin. "I went through all of college undetected, but I hope my story helps raise awareness. Having it, but not knowing you do is potentially deadly.”
For more information on Marfan Syndrome and how to detect it, head to www.marfan.org or call 1-800-8-Marfan