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Florida's Banks Recipient of David Toms Overcoming Adversity Award


NORMAN, Okla. – Eric Banks, a junior at Florida, has been named recipient of the David Toms Overcoming Adversity Award. Banks underwent open-heart surgery on June 25, 2012, but returned to Florida as a standout student and golfer.

While undergoing his freshman physical at Florida during the fall of 2011, cardiologists discovered a second beat of Banks heart. During follow-up questions Banks told doctors he experienced minor shortness of breath and an occasional rapid heart rate that would last seconds then resolve. Dr. Beard ordered more tests and over the coming months Banks underwent many echocardiograms and two transesophageal echocardiography (TEE). It was determined he had Atrial Septal Defect.

Not yet understanding the seriousness of his condition Banks focused on his studies and golf, playing in three fall tournaments. During the winter semester break Banks returned home to Canada and under went further tests on his heart. Results of the tests were not scheduled to return until after Banks was back at Florida.

Banks was excited for the first tournament of the spring, even more so since his parents were coming to watch him play. However, his parents main focus of the trip was to inform him the tests performed just months earlier indicated Banks needed open-heart surgery to repair his heart defect and properly septate his heart (a procedure to get the blue blood to the lungs and the red blood to the body).

Even with this news weighing heavily, Banks stayed in school and competed in every event of the spring season. Banks returned home two weeks following the NCAA Championships for his surgery. He received a call from the hospital on the evening of Thursday, June 21 informing the next day would be his pre-surgery day with open-heart surgery scheduled for Monday morning.

Pre-surgery day was difficult for Banks and his family as his surgeon, Dr. Camille Hancock Friesen, walked them through the process and the dangers of the procedure, which included paralysis, stroke and death. The operation would involve splitting open the sternum, placing Banks on the heart-lung machine and then performing the repair on his heart. It was an emotional time for the then 19-year old Banks as he pondered his mortality. He considers the morning of his surgery as the loneliest of his life.

After the four-hour surgery Banks woke up in the ICU. Disoriented from his procedure, Banks describes himself as “freaking out” due to the tube in his throat. Doctors initially removed the tube but Banks lungs collapsed four times which necessitated the tube being reinserted. That was the only moment he remembers from the day after his surgery. His father remembers the first thing Banks did after waking was to shake his arms and legs to make sure they could still move, a moment his dad will never forget.

Banks felt terrible when he woke the next day. He had two tubes in his stomach, another in his chest connected his heart, IVs in his wrist and neck and a catheter. Every breath caused excruciating pain. For several days he was unable to move from his bed. The first time he was able to walk from his bed was about 25 feet but made him feel “like I ran five marathons in a row.” It was a discouraging moment for Banks.

After Banks returned home from the hospital, each day he did stretching exercises, primarily based around stretching his chest, and cardio. Initially Banks struggled to lift his hands above his head. His cardio a strict walking plan, initially only two minutes and was completely exhausting.

Even though he was still undergoing his recovery, Banks chose to return to Florida for the fall semester in 2012. As soon as Banks returned he met with Florida men’s golf coach Buddy Alexander. Alexander immediately noticed how frail Banks, who had lost 20 pounds and most of his muscle since Alexander last saw him, appeared. Banks was still bothered by an erratic heart rate and blood pressure. He was initially only allowed to chip and putt and but by late September he was able to make full swings. Banks was also able to increase his cardio and do more strenuous stretches.

Banks returned home to Canada following the fall semester for another check-up. Dr. Hancock Friesen told Banks his heart was at a normal size and stroke rate. When the spring semester began, Banks began qualifying for tournaments. He experienced a few episodes on the golf course when his heart would beat fast or he would get extremely tired. The fatigue was random from day-to-day

Banks earned a spot in Florida’s first spring tournament. As a precaution, Alexander played him as an individual due to the 36-hole day. Banks played without incident, although he was understandably tired after the two-round day. He tied for 10th place. In a nice bit of symmetry, his parents came to watch him play, just as they had a year previously when they informed him of the need for his heart procedure. It was a great and emotional moment for Banks and his family.

Banks would go on to participate in every event of the spring. Even though he has suffered minor setbacks, Banks has since been a regular in the Gator lineup and maintains a 3.46 GPA while majoring in Economics.

“I am honored to receive the 2014 David Toms Award,” said Banks. “Overcoming open-heart surgery was by far the hardest thing I’ve had to do. The help of my family, friends, coaches and continued support of my hometown aided me immensely through this rough time. A special thanks to my cardiac surgeon: Camille Hancock Friesen who preformed a great procedure and added roughly 30 years to my life. I am forever indebted to you and to all those who have helped me along the way. This award would not have been possible without all the support I have received, thanks again and congratulations to all the nominees!”

See Eric's Interview with Golf Channel's Morning Drive here -