Dell Rapids teen won’t let MS get him down
High schooler finds purpose after diagnosis
April 01. 2014 2:01PM
Like most teenagers his age, Damon Scott spends a lot of time thinking about prom, graduation and what to do after high school. But all that stuff is secondary for the Dell Rapids High School senior.
For almost two years, Scott has lived knowing he has a disease with no known cure — multiple sclerosis, commonly referred to as MS.
“I always worry that I’m going to collapse,” Scott said of how his school day differs from those of his classmates.
The honor roll student was coming off a strong freshman golf season when he first got a feeling something might be wrong.
“I started having balancing problems, and I didn’t make the golf team my sophomore year,” he said. But he told himself not to worry. “I thought, maybe it’s just because I didn’t golf a lot in the summer.”
A sports fanatic accustomed to the camaraderie of a team, Scott went out for basketball a couple months later.
“All of the sudden, I couldn’t run,” he said.
Six months later, after struggling through an abbreviated round of golf at Rocky Run, Scott sought medical attention.
“I couldn’t even walk nine holes,” he said. “I would walk like four holes and I couldn’t make it any farther.”
On June 28, 2012, two weeks before his 17th birthday, Scott was diagnosed with MS, the inflammatory disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Though it’s not a terminal disease, more than 10,000 deaths from complications of MS are recorded each year.
At first, he said, it was hard to keep a positive attitude, especially as his team of doctors worked to find treatment options that didn’t make him feel worse. For the first nine months after the diagnosis, a variety of medications triggered seizures that often were violent.
But knowing that moping around or feeling sorry for himself wasn’t doing any good, Scott set his sights on rejoining Quarrier athletics in a different capacity.
“I can’t be negative about this,” Scott said. “I’m a sports guy. I love sports. So I got involved.”
Scott since has managed the Dell Rapids High School boys golf and basketball teams.
Quarrier head basketball coach Jason Fersdahl said the attitude and energy Scott shows every day in the classroom, gymnasium and locker room rubs off on the players.
“He’s brought a lot of enthusiasm to the team, hard work and the ultimate attitude,” the Quarriers’ second-year head coach said. “He hasn’t let himself get down despite this diagnosis, and he’s remained positive through this whole experience, which is motivating to others in itself. It’s really helped bring focus to our team and to help us understand that there are bigger things than basketball going on.”
The Quarriers’ all-conference forward, Cody Nielsen, said Scott was a regular source of inspiration during the past two seasons.
“You can tell that he wants to play but he can’t, so that makes you want to perform for him,” Nielsen said. “Before the games, he’s always there giving us high fives and stuff like that, so when you see that, it gives you a little something extra to go out and play with.”
Scott became a familiar face on the sidelines during the past two basketball seasons, but as the Quarriers’ 2013 season neared its end, the student manager’s seizures came more often.
Last year in March, Scott found himself hospitalized for the better part of the month and was unable to help his Dell Rapids teammates in their playoff run.
“It was a year ago at this time when some of his symptoms became much more serious. He got a lot sicker and spent a lot of time in the hospital,” Fersdahl said.
That’s when Fersdahl tapped other staff members, teachers and students at the school to organize a benefit for Scott.
“We thought it would be fun to have a schoolwide event, so we came up with the idea of having a seniors vs. staff basketball game,” he said.
The benefit game helped Scott and his Walk MS team raise $12,000 for the MS Society’s Sioux Falls walk last year.
With the support of his family, the school and the entire Dell Rapids community, Scott, who’s the ambassador for the Sioux Falls MS Walk this year, said he feels good enough to continue his work toward raising awareness and money for the MS Society with hopes that, eventually, a cure will be found.
“Everybody seems to have gotten behind me — the school, the community and the coaches,” Scott said.
The seniors and staff will play another basketball game for the MS Society at 7 p.m. Friday. The event includes a silent auction and raffle as well.
If you go
WHAT: Damon Scott and MS Society Seniors vs. Staff Basketball Game, featuring a silent auction and raffle
WHERE: Dell Rapids High School gym
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
|Joe Alquist / Argus Leader Media
Dell Rapids High School senior, Damon Scott, 18, who has had multiple sclerosis since he was 16, poses for a portrait on Thursday, March 27, 2014, at the Dell Rapids High School in Dell Rapids, S.D. Scott was a student athlete prior to his diagnosis, and is now the manager of the boys basketball and golf teams. There will a benefit for Scott and the M.S. society, including a basketball game between Dell Rapids High School staff and seniors, on Friday, April 4, at 7 p.m. in the school gym.