Student of the Week: Granite City teen doesn’t let heart surgery slow him down

Granite City High School sophomore Isaiah Mizell.
Granite City High School sophomore Isaiah Mizell.

Isaiah Mizell is a busy young man. He manages to keep a 5.16 grade point average — on a 5-point scale — while playing baseball and running cross-country, serving on the county’s youth board and participating in the civil air patrol.

But then he started feeling tired all the time. Eventually doctors figured out what was going on with the healthy teenager who had no energy: an extra electrical pathway in his heart, an electrocardiac syndrome known as Wolff-Parkinson-White. He was sidelined for a while from his more physical activities until the doctors could perform surgery on his heart in October.

There are fewer than 20,000 cases of Wolff-Parkinson-White per year in the United States. About 80 percent of people with symptoms first have them between the ages of 11 and 50, according to the American Heart Association.

“It was a little scary not knowing how the surgery would work out,” Isaiah said. He missed two days of school before returning.

“It was scary — as a mom, you don’t want to hear that there’s something wrong,” said Debye Mizell, Isaiah’s mom. “You want your child to be healthy. But it explained why he wasn’t feeling well ... It was a relief to get the diagnosis. It was God’s way of saying, ‘He needs to get this fixed.’”

Isaiah is on both the baseball and cross-country teams at Granite City High School, but he had to miss most of the fall season because of his heart condition. The coaches kept him on the team, though, and two weeks after the surgery, he ran a race. “My goal was to finish upright,” Isaiah said. He finished third from last, and he could tell he was out of shape from being on the bench most of the season. But he also could tell that his heart was “fixed.”

Isaiah takes several honors courses, which allows him to carry a GPA higher than 5 on the 5-point scale. He serves on the Madison County Youth Board, which helps come up with ideas for improving the community through the acts of young people. This year’s focus has been on preventing drug use in teens, including shooting some anti-drug and anti-tobacco ads.

Isaiah also serves with the civil air patrol as a cadet/chief master sergeant, a program of the U.S. Air Force for search and rescue missions. He plans to enter the Air Force after college, with hopes of eventually becoming a U.S. Marshal, arson investigator or another form of law enforcement.

Q: What’s your favorite subject?

A: “My favorites are history, English and German. I’m really interested in World War II and that era ... I have family that fought in the war.”

Q: Which is your favorite sport?

A: “Baseball is my passion. I hope to play in college someday. I’m a pitcher, and I play outfield and first base... I’ve been playing since T-ball.”

Q: You’ve served on the youth board for a while. How has that helped you?

A: ‘I get a little nervous... I use it to help with people skills and talking in front of people. That will help with anything I decide to do, in college or anything.”

Q: You had heart surgery halfway through the fall semester. How do you feel now?

A: “I’m completely fine now.”

Q: Any advice you would give to your fellow students?

A: “Get involved, stay busy, and work hard and study.”

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

About Isaiah Mizell

  • Age: 15
  • School: Granite City High School
  • Grade: Sophomore
  • Parents: Debye and Tim Mizell
  • Sibling: Noah Mizell, age 21
  • Honors: 5.16 GPA on a 5-point scale
  • Activities: Baseball, cross-country, Madison County Youth Board, Civil Air Patrol as cadet/chief master sergeant; co-captain of Scholar Bowl; Fellowship of Christian Athletes; Foreign Language Club; Renaissance Club; IHSA Leadership Conference; and MECOP, the Metro-East Cadets of Policing. His family belongs to Unity Baptist Church of Granite City.
  • Favorite pasttime: Hanging out with friends
  • Favorite food: Noodles and pasta
  • Favorite restaurant or hangout: Peel in Edwardsville