FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Knowing the signs of Marfan syndrome can save lives, and it's estimated that nearly half of the people who have the condition don't even know it.
Trent Blanton, 14, loves shooting hoops, but unlike his friend Cody, Blanton can never try out for his high school basketball team.
The ninth-grader has something called Marfan syndrome and has to protect his heart. That means no competitive or strenuous physical activity.
Marfan can affect the heart and blood vessels, as well as the bones, joints and eyes.
"The common denominator is connective tissue. It's a collagen disorder that is genetic," said Dr. Steve Xydas, of Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Blanton was born with Marfan syndrome and has many of the common physical characteristics of the condition.
"The fingers, the flat feet, the tallness, the skinniness, the roof of the mouth is taller and higher," Blanton said.
Despite the physical signs, Blanton might not have gotten the potentially lifesaving diagnosis had it not been for a tragic turn of events.
Blanton's mother and grandfather showed Local 10 News pictures of Trent senior -- the loving, active father who died suddenly 10 years ago. His aortic valve was dangerously enlarged, the result of undiagnosed Marfan syndrome.
"It was so sad to know that it could have been prevented. If someone saw the signs, he would still be with us today," Christine Blanton-Hildebrandt said.
"If you know about Marfan syndrome, then you can screen for abnormalities and catch an aneurysm or a weakening before there is a tear or rip," Xydas said.
Today, Blanton is being closely monitored and takes medication to control some of the effects of Marfan syndrome. He wants to be a sportscaster one day and hopes his story will be a game-changer for other families.
"My dad, he passed when he was older," Blanton said. "He had a little kid and my mom. They left him alone and everything, so we don't want that to happen to another family."
Local 10 News is teaming up with the Marfan Foundation to get the word out. Joins us this Sunday for the Walk for Victory at TY Park in Hollywood at noon.
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