Wilsonville junior Cooper Mootz is a gamer and a football lifer, but during the 2016 campaign, he faced a challenge beyond the gridiron.
The Wildcats' leading rusher played a season ago with his trachea 80 percent closed.
“It was good because I was kind of distracted from it with football going on. Deep in the playoffs, state championship,” he recalled.
Mootz went from the 5a championship game to the operating table within two weeks of the Wildcats' runner-up finish to Lebanon.
“Now that it's over, I can say that it made me a better person,” he said. “I have kind of embraced it. The fact that I had all of that going on. So I would say it was all for the better in the end.”
Cooper had been misdiagnosed with asthma for all of his life until the start of his sophomore season.
“That's when I started noticing a difference in my breathing and coughing,” he explained. ”I have always had a cough but it wasn't as bad as it got because it got a lot worse.”
Doctors discovered he was living with a rare double aortic arch, an abnormality that only grew larger and tighter as coop pushed his body harder and harder.
”Everyone is born with two aortas, but as a baby in the womb, one of them falls off. but my aorta covers the trachea and it squeezes down,” he said. “It compressed more on my trachea and kept making it worse.”
Choosing to hold off on surgery until after Wilsonville's championship run, Mootz spent six days in the hospital after a five-hour procedure at OHSU where surgeons snipped off the second aorta to release the tension and better his breathing.
”I feel more confident than last season, and overall, I just feel more healthy,” he said. “I don't sound like I am sick all of the time.”
Prior to surgery, a signed football from Derek Carr and Amari Cooper of the Oakland Raiders showed up on the doorstep of the kid raised to relish in Raider nation.
“The Raiders found out about it somehow, and my parents had the idea of the whole Cooper Strong thing,” Mootz explained. “I have the bracelet right here that I still wear every day, and so word got to them and they signed a football and got it over to us. We didn't know it was going to happen. It was pretty much by surprise. It was awesome.”
Throughout the entire ordeal, the multi-sport athlete just tried to remain #CooperStrong & Wilsonville Strong.
”It was crazy, just the support I got through the entire process was unbelievable,” he said. “Just people I hadn't talked to in years messaging me over social media and saying I am in their thoughts and stuff like that. It was fantastic. It helped a lot.”
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