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Making waves through adversity

Senior DJ Haythorn influences many by swimming with Cerebral Palsy

Senior+DJ+Haythorn+smiles+after+swim+practice+on+Monday%2C+Jan.+29.%0A
Senior DJ Haythorn smiles after swim practice on Monday, Jan. 29.

Senior DJ Haythorn smiles after swim practice on Monday, Jan. 29.

Photo by Noah Nielson

Photo by Noah Nielson

Senior DJ Haythorn smiles after swim practice on Monday, Jan. 29.

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He stands by the block, waiting nervously for his event. The smell of chlorine hits his nose and the chill of cold water splashes him from the other team diving in. His event is called on. He has completed this race hundreds of times but his muscles still tense up. He takes a deep breath and gets ready to compete. When he was born he might not have been able to take that breath.

On Sept. 22, 1999, DJ Haythorn was born in a military hospital. He was shortly transferred off base to a nearby hospital with a NICU in order to keep him breathing. He was later diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.

“Cerebral palsy is a movement muscle disorder [and] it’s caused by a bleeding in your brain before birth,” Haythorn said. “It primarily affects my balance, motor skills, reflexes and reaction times.”

As a kid, Haythorn struggled to participate in other sports due to his low reflexes and balance, but he found an interest for swimming early on from observing his brother on the school’s dive team.

“It kind of gave me something to do,” Haythorn said. “There are just some things I have to do in different ways than other people.”

Haythorn may not be able to do everything swimming requires including kicking, but it doesn’t stop him from practicing to become a better swimmer. He works to find alternatives when possible.

“Not being able to kick while swimming is just hard,” senior Woodrow Hazel said. “He has to use his arms more which is pretty impressive.”

After being on the swim team for four years, Haythorn has had many role models who have helped him throughout his time on the team.

“My dad has kept me going and always encourages me to get faster,” Haythorn said. “[My coaches have] always encouraged me; they don’t judge me based on my disability and they know what I can do.”

Haythorn has always had doubts about not being able to compete against other swimmers because of his disability. However, his nerves and doubts usually go away once a competition begins.

“Sometimes I think in the back of my head that [my opponents] don’t think I can do it,” Haythorn said. “Then when they cheer me on and high five me, it all goes away. [Cheering] makes me feel good; it makes me feel like I can do this because usually you wouldn’t think that a kid who can’t even use his legs to kick could do so well.”

With Haythorn’s dedication to his team he has become an influence to both his coach and his teammates.

“DJ helps our athletes understand that sometimes things don’t come easy,” head swim coach Craig Harris said. “DJ works really hard to do some of the physical tasks swimming requires and not everything is possible but he always tries and never complains. I think he has really set a standard for the other athletes on the team and [shows] there are bigger things in life to complain and worry about.”

Throughout his swimming career, Haythorn has created a unique bond with his teammates.

“I enjoy [swim] and every year I get faster and faster,” Haythorn said. “I just want to try and get faster, and I love the people on [the team] like family.”

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One Response to “Making waves through adversity”

  1. Robin childress on January 30th, 2018 7:02 PM

    Congratulations DJ your a true champion…aunt Robin loves you the most!!!

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