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Continued: Reusse: Gophers' Dixon opted for heart surgery to keep playing volleyball

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 6, 2013 - 6:52 AM

Dixon had an extra node in her heart. And this little bugger would fire up in a cry for attention, and that would get the whole blood-pumping plant rolling, and Tori’s heart would start pounding at its ridiculously high number.

“It wasn’t life threatening,” Dixon said. “But if I wanted to keep playing volleyball, the doctors said I needed the surgery to have the node removed.”

Beatty-Kollasch said: “In Tori’s case, the extra node was right next to some of the real important stuff with the heart, so the surgery was very intricate.”

The heart surgery took place on March 25. Dr. Scott Sakaguchi was the main man. The original hope was for a three-hour procedure in which the node could be frozen away.

“It was squeezed in there too tight, I guess,” Tori said. “They had to fry it off.”

Fried in minute pieces. The surgery took seven hours.

“I was outside waiting, going crazy,” Beatty-Kollasch said.

Pam Dixon, Tori’s mother, also was going crazy … except she was in the Carribbean, on a cruise with Tori’s father, David, and her two younger siblings.

The Dixons had paid in full for the family cruise months before Tori’s situation was diagnosed. Tori and everyone else involved told the Dixons to take the cruise for two reasons:

One, Tori was going to be fine and, two, there’s nothing they could do to help.

“Pam was calling every time she got a cell signal,” Beatty-Kollasch said. “It would last about three seconds and the call would be dropped.”

Seven hours after Dr. Sakaguchi started, the node was gone and Tori was started on a quick recovery.

“I haven’t had an episode since the surgery,” Dixon said. “I feel great.”

She is having a magnificent senior season in the middle of Big Ten competition that is challenging throughout a double round-robin and two matches a weekend.

“Our conference is always great,” Dixon said. “And this season, I’d agree it’s better than ever.”

Dixon was a second-team All-America and a unanimous All-Big Ten first team pick in 2012. She could move up the remaining notch in the All-America rankings this time.

The Gophers are 21-4 overall, 9-3 in the Big Ten and rated No. 10 nationally. They have a four-match homestand that includes the two teams ahead of them in the conference: No. 8 Nebraska (10-2) on Sunday afternoon, and No. 2 Penn State (11-1) on Nov. 16.

Minnesota is 8-0 at home this season. And the crowds in the Sports Pavilion for those matches might be such that David Dixon, once an NFL offensive lineman, won’t have his usual isolated space to watch and cheer for his daughter.

  • related content

  • Reusse blog: Versatility gives U's Dixon an Olympic chance

    Tuesday November 5, 2013

    Gophers coach Hugh McCutcheon says volleyball star has added "quite a few strings to her bow.''

  • 2013 Gophers volleyball schedule

    Wednesday November 6, 2013

  • Gophers middle blocker Tori Dixon leads the team in hitting percentage (.404), kills (331) and blocks (117) as a senior.

  • Tori Dixon’s dominance at middle blocker is a big reason the Gophers are 21-4 and No. 10 in the coaches’ national rankings.

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