From the Bench: BHS's Parker Sheppard's Journey from Worries of Stopping Breathing to Stopping Goals

By Jeff Toquinto on August 20, 2017 from Sports Blog via

To watch Parker Sheppard at practice or in games at Wayne Jamison Field as a member of the Bridgeport High School soccer team, nothing seems awry. He looks like a typical 17-year-old senior – full of energy and ready to tackle the world.
The picture is correct. That’s who he is. However, it’s not who he was and Parker Sheppard will tell you that the change from who he was to who he is now is a welcome change.
For years, all the way through his time at Bridgeport Middle School, Parker Sheppard was not the healthiest of youngsters. In fact, he spent as much time in the hospital, the emergency room and doctor’s offices as most youngsters spend on vacation or at their friends’ houses as the result of severe allergies and asthma.
Number of doctor’s visit? Too many to remember. Trips to the emergency room? Sheppard guessed in the dozens.
Times overnight stays in the hospital of more than three nights, including stints in the intensive care unit? Sheppard said he spent more than three nights there four times.
“I can still remember what it feels like. I could barely breathe and have such little energy I would just lay down and not move and eventually would end up at the hospital. If I had to be admitted, I’d often end up in the ICU and would be in the hospital until things got calmed down,” Sheppard said. “The major problem was breathing. It felt like trying to breathe through a straw, but harder and with someone holding a heavy weight on your chest.”
While his asthma was triggered by pollen outdoors, Sheppard said as a youngster he was allergic to barley, wheat and eggs along with peanuts and tree nuts.
“I’ve actually grown out of the barley, wheat and egg allergies,” said Sheppard. “I am really careful with what I eat now and that has been a big help.”
That doesn’t mean things were easy for Sheppard. He’s had more than his fair share of traumatic experiences, including one on a cruise ship where the French fries he ate had wheat in them.
“I had a reaction that was pretty bad and they took me to the hospital on the ship,” said Sheppard. “The thing I remember is they couldn’t get an IV in me. They tried 13 times before it worked.”
The problems were more severe, he said, in elementary school. He said there was a lot of issues trying to handle it, but things have progressively gotten better.
“It was really hard when I was young. I stayed inside a lot and my friends would be out doing stuff and I couldn’t. “Things started to change as I outgrew stuff, figured out medicines to take and then a new shot regimen that worked out well.
“The new treatment began when I was 12 with shots every other week, three of them, that I did for the last four years and now I’m doing them every three weeks,” said Sheppard. “It was experimental, but it’s worked.”
And the transformation began. Although Sheppard has been playing soccer since the fourth grade, he said he gained a lot of weight as a kid because he was sick all the time and inactive.
“Early on in middle school I was way overweight. I know as late as middle school I was afraid of having attacks in front of my friends and getting sick again. I had it happen in front of my friends, which was not only scarier, but I was embarrassed,” said Sheppard. “I was worried about going certain places and even certain smells for fear that something might trigger an attack, but I knew I needed to change things.”
While at BMS, Sheppard got on a diet. He began to exercise. That, along with better medications and other changes, began to work.
“I wanted to change things for myself and when I did, my asthma wasn’t as bad and I started going out and was getting in better and better shape,” he said. “I’m so much further along than where I was in middle school that when I think about it it’s hard to imagine.”
Now, the senior goalie that has been part of the Indians squad since his sophomore year is more worried about the success of his team as opposed to worrying about the simplest thing we all take for granted – breathing.
“I’m really excited and I think we’re going to have a strong year,” said Sheppard. “We’ve got a lot of talent and with all the hard work we’ve put in and been through I think we can have a strong year.”
Certainly, with all that Parker Sheppard has been through, he, too, deserves a good year. Knowing he’s better and out playing is a breath of well-deserved fresh air.
Editor's Note: Photos of Parker Sheppard by Joey Signorelli.

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