Teen battling a heart condition becomes a Boilermaker

BY CREIGHTON SUTER Asst. Campus Editor, Purdue Exponent

Stephen Quillin poses with his father, Steve Quillin (left), his mother, Tammy Quillin, his grandmother, Maggie Quillin, and his grandfather, Phil Quillin, in the Purdue Memorial Union after receiving early admission to the university.
Creighton Suter | Assistant Campus Editor


















Purdue University’s Class of 2022 has officially received its first commitment.

Stephen Quillin walked into the surprise of a lifetime Wednesday evening. Surrounded by his family, Quillin arrived at the Welcome Center in the Purdue Memorial Union, expecting to pick up tickets to the night’s Purdue men’s basketball game. Instead, he was greeted by the sound of “Hail Purdue” echoing down the Union’s hallway, showered with souvenirs, and offered early admission to the university.

“I was very surprised,” Quillin said with a freshly-acquired Purdue scarf draped around his neck.

Most high school students who applied for the upcoming fall semester won’t hear back from the university until Jan. 15 at the earliest, but Quillin’s application was special.

The 18-year-old Sheridan, Indiana native, who comes from a long line of Boilermakers, has balanced his high school education with routine trips to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis for treatment related to his heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which he was diagnosed with at just 7 months old.

The condition causes the muscles of the heart wall to thicken, making patients vulnerable to cardiac arrest, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Currently, there is no cure for the disease.

Quillin has had two heart surgeries to date, and doctors have outfitted him with both a pacemaker and defibrillator as an “insurance policy.” But generally speaking, Quillin is happy, healthy and excited about his status as a newly-admitted student at Purdue.

“I always wanted to be a Boilermaker,” he said. “It felt very good, and I’m very honored to be a part of Purdue.”

Because of his disease, Quillin was connected with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which is a nonpprofit organization that grants the wishes of young people afflicted with critical medical conditions.

Quillin could have wished for anything imaginable from Make-A-Wish, but his request was simple: make me a Boilermaker.

Todd Riegle of the Make-A-Wish Foundation said Quillin’s wish was an unusual one. The foundation is accustomed to getting requests from young people to visit Disneyland, to meet their favorite athlete or even to have their ideal treehouse built. But college admissions, that’s a new one for Riegle.

“This is the first time I’ve heard about it,” Reigle said of the request, while admitting he’s only been with the organization for eight months.

Asked why he passed up on an extravagant vacation or celebrity meet and greet in favor of simply being a Boiler, Quillin said, “(It’s) something that would last me a lifetime.”

Make-A-Wish didn’t get Quillin admitted to Purdue. He did that all on his own. But the organization did help to ensure that he was the first person to receive an offer of admission in the Class of 2022. And, on top of that, it provided him with $6,000 in tuition assistance.

While he comes from a family full of Purdue graduates, there was a time when he considered going to Indiana University, much to the dismay of his father, Steve Quillin, and his grandfather, Phil Quillin. A single experience at a Purdue football game, though, was all it took to convince him otherwise, according to his father.

“He saw the tradition,” Steve said. “He walked around campus. And ever since that day—he would say it was before that a little bit—but that really helped him see what Purdue was like as a sports area.”

Quillin is a sports fan through and through, but his heart condition has kept him off the playing field, aside from the occasional laid-back pickup game with friends.

“That’s what he loves, is sports,” Steve said. “So it’s been great to see how he has taken something that he can’t do, and he’s channeled that into other successful areas in life. And one being, wanting (to attend) Purdue.”

Deciding what he wanted to study was all that was left for Quillin to do.

As his father tells it, his heart condition pointed him in the right direction. While he underwent treatment, Quillin realized he had a desire to learn more about what was actually happening to his body. To satisfy that thirst for knowledge, he plans to study pre-pharmacy at Purdue, so that he can better understand the complex processes taking place within his body.

“He is clearly a student on a mission,” said Kris Wong Davis, vice provost for enrollment. “He has drive and interest and a passion for what he wants to study because of what he’s been through. I think that drive and passion is what fuels so many of our Purdue students.”

His plans don’t stop there, either. Quillin intends on continuing his education in pharmacy school after earning his undergraduate degree so he can help others facing similar ailments when he finishes his education—a point Davis believes was taken into account when the university made its decision.

“I think that part of it was even more compelling because he makes a case for this is why I really want to do it,” she said. “And students who have that compelling interest usually succeed fairly well.”

Quillin will be just one of what Davis expects to be a freshman class of 7,700 students in the fall of 2018.

More importantly, he’ll be another Quillin at Purdue.

“The line goes on,” his mother Tammy said.

Original Story: https://www.purdueexponent.org/campus/article_0b80bebc-f0c4-11e7-b868-138d8334154d.html

Stephen Quillin was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy at just 7 months old. He has an implanted defibrillator to shock his heart should he go into sudden cardiac arrest. Though Stephen’s condition has kept him off the playing field for the most part, his love for sports hasn’t wavered.

Early diagnosis is key to managing (or treating) a heart condition. When athletes are unaware of an underlying condition, they could be putting their lives at risk by participating in sports activities.

Wimbledon Athletics partners with schools throughout the U.S. to proactively test student athletes for vascular conditions common to athletes and for cardiac abnormalities to help prevent sudden cardiac arrest. Learn more about bringing cardiovascular testing to your school. 

Wimbledon Athletics
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Vascular Centers Of America