Josh Rocheleau doesn’t want any special treatment and he doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him. The sophomore from Pierz just wants to be one of the guys, and that’s exactly what he is. Josh is a member of the Pioneers’ varsity golf team, he’s a manager for the football team, he’s a huge sports fan and he has a great smile.
The fact that he has a heart condition is all but second nature. And when I say “heart condition” I mean something really serious. Josh’s condition is called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. In his words, “the left side of my heart is underdeveloped.”
Here’s what the Mayo Clinic website says about his condition…
“Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is a complex and rare heart defect present at birth (congenital). In hypoplastic left heart syndrome, the left side of the heart is critically underdeveloped. If your baby is born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, the left side of the heart can't effectively pump blood to the body, so the right side of the heart must pump blood both to the lungs and to the rest of the body. Medication to prevent closure of the connection (ductus arteriosus) between the right and left sides, followed by either surgery or a heart transplant, is necessary to treat hypoplastic left heart syndrome. With advances in care, the outlook for babies born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome is better now than in the past.”
Yes, it’s something really serious. Josh, 16, has undergone numerous surgeries. “I don’t know,” he said, “about five or six surgeries.” The most recent surgery took place when he was 10 years old; a pacemaker was placed near his heart in that procedure. He will have more surgeries as he gets older.
Josh and I chatted Thursday in the clubhouse at Shamrock Golf Course in Corcoran. He and his teammates had competed in a Central Minnesota Conference meet. He shot a 47 over nine holes, which he termed “pretty good. I can do better, though. You always can.”
Josh has been the Pioneers’ No. 3 player for the last couple weeks. This is his second season on the varsity. Pierz coach Chris Dobis called Josh “a great kid. He loves sports, he loves everything about it.”
Josh is a big Minnesota Twins fans and is a regular at Pierz sporting events. He described his duties as a football manager thusly: “I get everything ready for the players. I like it.” He uses a golf cart in his football duties, and sometimes will drive a cart during competitive rounds of golf, too.
That’s because of his heart condition. He has received a waiver from the MSHSL to use a golf cart when needed. He’s usually fine when walking nine holes, but playing 18 holes or any number of holes on an especially hot day can lead to using a cart.
“He appreciates it very much, he’s very respectable when he uses a cart,” Dobis said. “But he likes to walk.”
Josh keeps himself hydrated on the course, which is important. And when he drives a cart, other players who don’t know him will usually inquire.
“If they ask, I tell them,” he said, smiling. “They understand.”
And when he’s walking a course, no one knows there’s anything different about him. “They never really ask, because it’s not noticeable,” he said. “I’m just a normal person.”
Dobis said, “I don’t think there really is much discussion about it as far as I know. He carries the waiver in his bag in case anyone would ask. Everybody who plays with him would like to ride with him.”
Josh would like to participate in other sports but he realizes that danger of doing so. “I wish I could play way more,” he said as he smiled again.
Not long ago he began working at Eagles Landing Golf Club in Fort Ripley, where his job entails working with, yes, golf carts.
“I’m a cart boy,” he said. “I put away carts and pick up the range.”
It’s a perfect workplace, because as Josh told me, “When I’m not working, I’m golfing.”
--To see a photo gallery from Thursday’s Central Minnesota Conference boys golf meet at Shamrock Golf Course in Corcoran, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 643
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 9,236
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn