Speaking to the media for the first time since sharing his diagnosis on Instagram, Minnesota Vikings linebacker Cameron Smith revealed that the team's protocol after a positive COVID-19 test helped saved his life by finding he needed open-heart surgery.
After testing positive while reporting to training camp, further tests revealed that Smith had a bicuspid aortic valve in his heart that would require surgery.
“I wouldn’t have ever known about this…without testing positive for COVID," Smith said on Friday. "It’s an interesting feeling, but it’s a blessing in disguise and there’s a lot of good that came from that.”
The timeline for Smith's diagnosis came about a week after his initial positive test. After he tested negative for the virus four times following the initial positive test, the Vikings gave Smith a physical which included an electrocardiogram.
After that produced some irregular results, Smith underwent an echocardiogram and an MRI which revealed he needed surgery to repair his heart.
“I was very shocked," Smith recalled. "The news is very alarming to hear open-heart surgery. My head just started instantly rushing...I talked to the doctors and drove back to the facility and I was in my car for 30 minutes [with] no sound...just kind of wondering what the next step was."
After Smith had a conversation with head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman, he felt more confident about the situation and how the Vikings handled his positive test.
"[Sugarman] really eased my head mentally and how positive this was in the long run and that it was such a great thing we found it," Smith said. "That helped me out a lot."
Since the announcement that Smith will miss the 2020 season, several people have reached out to him that have either had or known someone who has had surgery to repair a bicuspid aortic valve.
That has helped instill confidence in Smith, who still hopes to play football as soon as next season. Following the operation, he'll endure three months of rehab, though he hopes to be with the Vikings "as much as possible" as he recovers.
"It’s not a very comforting task, but right now I feel really optimistic about getting it done and this is only going to make me better," Smith said. "I’m excited in a weird way to get this done and to kind of put it behind me."