Screenings Benefit all Athletes, not Just Those with Severe Health Concerns

July 01, 2010

By Renee Dease, Healthy Athletes Outreach Coordinator and Special Olympics Athlete

Stories from Healthy Athletes often focus on the athletes with the most dramatic health issues, but for thousands of athletes every year, Healthy Athletes is about making healthier choices and addressing non-critical, but chronic and important, health concerns. Jacob Suarez from Texas is one such athlete. 

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Special Olympics Texas Athlete Jacob Suarez

During Texas' state games last year, Jacob attended the Healthy Hearing free screenings for the first time. They detected some mild hearing loss, excessive wax, and a minor ear infection.

“I am really glad we went,” said Jacob’s mother, Cindi. “We wouldn’t have known if we hadn’t gone to Healthy Athletes. He hadn’t been to the doctor for a while and it wasn’t bothering him, so we probably wouldn’t have found out about the infection until it got much worse.”

Jacob has had a long history of ear infections since he was an infant.  As a child, he had tubes in his ears and underwent surgery when he was in his early 20's.

Jacob also has high blood pressure. He is on medication to control it and has lost 25 pounds so far.  He would like to lose about 20 more in order to hopefully no longer need medication. 

“I go to the gym a lot. I drink lots of water, no soda, and no salt,” Jacob said. “I eat healthy snacks.  Special Olympics helps me lose weight and exercise.”

Cindi agreed. “He has really changed his eating habits. Even when we go to a restaurant, he watches what he eats and will make sure they don’t add salt to his food. He is very good about that.  His friends notice too. Special Olympics have been a positive influence,” she said.

Jacob has a lot to feel great about these days. In addition to his discovery of Healthy Athletes, he has always had his share of success in Special Olympics. He participates in several sports such as softball, power lifting, soccer, track, shot put, tennis, bowling, basketball, turbo jav, kayaking and wrestling.

He has been involved with outreach committees, the ALPS-Athletes Leadership program and has attended Global Messenger training. Jacob is 31 years old and has been involved with Special Olympics since he was in elementary school at age 8. He graduated from High School in 2000.

Jacob lives in an apartment, works, and uses public transportation.  For more than 3 years, he has worked at HEB, a grocery store chain. He has many responsibilities there, including helping customers who have disabilities navigate the store and carrying items to the check out or out of the store. 

Jacob is also active in many non-SO social activities for people with intellectual disabilities including camps and dances put on by area organizations. He has also done a lot of volunteer work through "Tip a Cop” and “Shirt off Your Back” fundraising efforts. Jacob has gained self-esteem through Special Olympics and  his participation in Healthy Athletes.

Jacob plans to continue going to Healthy Athletes. He said this year, he plans to get his eyes and teeth checked, and he looks forward to visiting Fun Fitness, Fit Feet and Health Promotion as well.

“We loved all the Healthy Athletes staff, clinicians and volunteers. They were all so kind,” Cindi said.

One of Jacob’s continuing health goals is to stick to his diet and lose weight. 

“He has taken a positive approach to taking care of his health by losing weight and joining a gym. This year he had a personal trainer to help him increase his knowledge of new exercises and proper use of the equipment,” Cindi said.


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