Plainfield freshman qualifies for IHSAA swimming and diving championships after brain surgery

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PLAINFIELD, Ind.-- Qualifying for the IHSAA state swimming and diving championships is an impressive feat for any prep athlete; accomplishing that feat as a freshman is even more extraordinary, especially when that freshman is Plainfield’s Jackson VanWanzeele.

“It’s a miracle, he’s a miracle,” Jackson’s mother Julie said.

This weekend, Jackson, who is also a straight-A student at Plainfield, will compete in three events at the state championships – the 200 yard medley relay, the 200 yard freestyle relay and the 500 yard freestyle.

Four years ago, doctors weren’t sure what Jackson’s future held, whether he would even walk again, let alone swim.

In January 2013, then 11-year-old Jackson suffered flu-like symptoms and round-the-clock headaches for weeks. His mother, a registered nurse, insisted on a CT scan. That scan revealed a large tumor compressing against the back left portion of Jackson’s brain.

Admitted into Riley Hospital, Jackson underwent surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain and drain the cyst. The surgery left a horseshoe-shaped scar on his head and lots of uncertainty for his future. The hope was that the brain would slowly recapture that area that had been taken over by the cyst.

After three weeks at Riley, Jackson was released and headed home in a reclining wheelchair. Within a month, Dr. Boaz allowed Jackson to get in the water, as long as he didn’t submerge his head. The pool became therapeutic, allowing Jackson to move again with the use of a kickboard.

"Well it helped me build muscle, keep muscle and stay in shape," he said. "It allowed me to do what I couldn't do out of the pool."

This weekend, Jackson, who is also a straight-A student at Plainfield, will compete in three events at the state championships – the 200 yard medley relay, the 200 yard freestyle relay and the 500 yard freestyle.

And with the biggest battle of his life already won, he knows anything is possible.

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