Chico high school athlete plays with pacemaker

Tanner Hilstad plays football and wrestles at Chico High. He got a pacemaker when he was 10 years old. It took him five years to get back on the football field.

Posted: Jun 23, 2021 8:07 AM

CHICO, Calif. - Tanner Hilstad is like many other high school athletes as he loves to play football and wrestle at Chico High. But what you can’t see is that Tanner plays with a pacemaker.

“He played pop warner football when we lived in Orland,” Tanner’s mom Jennifer Zuckerman said. “He collapsed a couple times when he was in-between practices. He would just pass out and we didn’t know what was wrong with him.”

“A pacemaker is kind of like two wires connected to your heart,” Tanner explained. “My heart beats a little slower. It kicks it back up, keeps it going again.”

Tanner got his pacemaker when he was 10 years old. It took him five years to get back on the football field.

“It was terrible,” Tanner said. “Going up there every other month, asking. [Doctors said] there’s risk, there’s risk. I was like I want to take them. I love sports.”

Tanner finally practiced again last season. He took things slow, rebuilding muscle in his arm and shoulder.

“I’m just amazed,” Jennifer said. “He’s doing wonderful. From five years ago to now, he’s doing wonderful.”

“It honestly feels like a dream,” Tanner said. “Ever since I was little, I wanted to play football. Once that happened and they said no, I was bummed. I felt like everything was ending. But I’m here now. I’m excited, ready for the season to start. I’m ready.”

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