Baseball is a way of life for John Marshall’s Austin Brown. In what feels like the swing of a bat, it’s already senior night.
"It’s going to be really tough after the game, just thinking I’m not going to play on this field anymore," says Brown.
The soon-to-be graduate is the right fielder for the John Marshall High School Rockets this year.
But just one year ago, Austin’s senior season seemed out of reach. He remembers the day all to well.
"May 16th, 2017," he says in his Rochester home.
That day was like any other game day for him. Until he was thrown one of the biggest curve balls of his life, and it all started in warm ups. He took a ball to the face in warm up. Initially thinking it was dehydration, his condition deteriorated as the game progressed.
"I went up to bat, and I struck out on three pitches, and I could not see the ball like at all and that’s like when I knew something was up." he says.
Not only the blurry vision, but also sweating, and not seeing pitches as well as he usually does.
His head coach, Jade Boettcher, could tell Austin wasn’t playing like usual.
"He really didn’t look like himself at the plate, he swung and missed at three pitches that he really wasn’t close to," says Boettcher.
Despite having the game 45 minutes away, Austin’s mom rushed him to Mayo Clinic-Saint Marys for immediate testing, the news wasn’t good.
"I was really hoping that it would kind of be better the next day, and that’s what I kind of think everyone at Mayo was hoping too. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened," says Brown.
Austin suffered a stroke in his third cranial nerve of his brain stem caused by vasculitis from medication he was taking, a stroke so severe, it took doctors eight days to figure out what was wrong. The uncertainty left Austin wondering if he would ever be able to see the same way again.
"Not being able to see, drive and just live a normal life that everyone else like at a young age is able to do, and then also missing sports for my senior season for football and for baseball, that would have been really tough to swallow," he said.
Austin, his parents, along with his younger brother credit Mayo Clinic, for giving him a second chance at life.
"I’m just thankful they were able to find it and get me on the right medicines and get me back. Because I probably might not be able to see normally right now if it wasn’t for them," says Brown.
Now this 18-year-old is determined to not have that five letter "stroke" word define him.
Just 374 days later after he suffered the stroke Austin is back on the diamond, this time on home field for senior night.
"It’s exactly the same same as it was before, which is really nice to know that I’m not suffering any long term problems from it," he says.
Not only did he return in time for baseball season, but Austin also was cleared to play football for the Rockets as well, serving as a captain on both teams.
"Being captain for my senior year, that was like a major goal of mine to get back on the field. And that kind of I think helped make me focus, that was my end goal of when I wanted to be recovered by," says Brown.
"At that point in time, you never really know if you’ll ever be able to play baseball again, let alone and come back and play at the high level that he has been." says Boettcher.
So what felt like could be an end, is actually just the beginning.
"I thought it was over, and luckily now I can do all of things and I’m just a lot more thankful that I can do all of those things," says Brown.
Austin’s grandparents also were in attendance on senior night, and are thankful for the outcome of their grandson’s terrifying situation.
"This back week now he was cleared, he went through all of this tests and it is cleared, so we feel really blessed to have him where he is today," says his grandfather, Gary Lundeen.
Austin says that he didn’t even know what a stroke was when he was first diagnosed, and hopes his story inspires others to never give up.
"I’d say to other people that this is just a small chapter of your life and you can’t let it define you. I am more thankful now for what I have, and I’m just really excited for the rest of my life and what it has for me. If I can make it through this, I can make it through anything."
Despite missing three weeks of school during his recovery during his junior year, Austin remains on track academically. He will be graduating at the top of his class at John Marshall High School on Saturday, June 9th with a 4.0 GPA.
He will be attending the University of Minnesota-Twins Cities in the fall, where he plans on studying product design or mechanical engineering.