Trish Derwart doesn't take anything for granted.
Not a year, not a month, not a day, not an hour, not a second.
"At the end of the day I don't want to have any what ifs," said Derwart, a senior Mount Hebron lacrosse player. "What if I could have done this better. What if i could have played harder. What if I had said this or said that. I want to do everything to my fullest and have no regrets. I do that with my sports, I do that with my life."
Most 17-year-olds don't think this way. Then again, most teen-agers haven't seen first-hand how life can be so unfair. The seizures that started when she was a junior, and still remain a mystery as well as a threat. The sudden heart attack that took the life of her boyfriend's father a year ago in March. The drunken driving accident last summer that nearly killed her brother, J.T. The stroke her grandmother had while at Derwart's home last September.
"It's changed my life," said Derwart of everything that has happened. "It's changed the way I view things."
She has learned to survive. She has learned to allow others to help.
"She's got a great support network in her parents," said Mount Hebron lacrosse coach Chris Robinson. "They are both tremendous people. She also has the ability to recognize that people around her care, and she hasn't shut us out.
"She came to me a couple times last year and we sat and talked for a couple hours about life and how unfair it is and what we can do to get her life back in order. She's well above any kid her age maturity-wise."
Derwart, an all-county field hockey and lacrosse player, acknowledges the important contributions her friends, family and community have made.
"I didn't do this by myself," said Dewart, who plays midfield in field hockey and defense in lacrosse. "I have the greatest best friend [lacrosse teammate Tracey Bounds], good parents and a coach that's there for me."
Derwart had never picked up a lacrosse stick before ninth grade. "I didn't even want to play lacrosse," Derwart said. "Tracey got me to do it. She was at a higher level and pushed me to be more competitive."
Their friendship started as bench warmers on the varsity basketball team as freshmen. They attend lacrosse camps together -- as well as family vacations -- and were both recruited by Ohio State for lacrosse. They took their recruiting trip to Columbus, Ohio, together and both have accepted scholarship offers.
"Going to school with her," Derwart said. "Well, I don't think it could get much better than this."
It was at an all-star lacrosse tournament, shortly after J.T. had been severely injured, that Ohio State first noticed Derwart and Bounds.
"I don't know what came over me. I wanted so much to do well," said Derwart, remembering how she played in the tournament. "It's almost like I wanted to make my family proud of me and make my brother proud of me."
It was June 22 of last year, two days after Derwart's 17th birthday, when J.T., a 1995 Mount Hebron graduate, was a passenger in a car. "His friend was driving and they were both drunk and they hit an electric utility pole going about 55 to 60 miles per hour," Derwart said. "There were no skid marks. He was wearing a seat belt. That's what saved him."
The injuries to J.T. were extensive. "He had a 30 percent chance of living," Derwart said. He stayed at the University of Maryland shock trauma unit for a month.
"When I went to the hospital to see him, I walked right past his bed," Derwart said. "I just looked at him and said, 'Poor guy, I wonder who that is.' Then my parents stopped me. I didn't even recognize him."
J.T.'s recovery is ongoing, with more operations ahead. "He can walk, but he can't feel half of his leg," Derwart said.
"He was a great athlete," said Derwart, who just completed making a tape about drunken driving that will be shown later this year at the school. "He dreamed of going on and playing lacrosse in college and he won't be able to do that, so I wanted to live that dream for him."
Two weeks after her brother's accident, Derwart was in a car accident herself. "It was my fault," she said. "I wasn't hurt, but $7,000 of the car was."
Her seizures began while playing field hockey her junior season. There has been no definitive explanation why she gets them, but it's likely she has a hypoglycemic-like condition.
She has been to the hospital many times for tests, and last year wore a heart monitor. She has to eat eight times a day -- "I'm burning things too fast for my body," Derwart said -- and keeps glucose tablets at arm's length.
"I could outgrow these seizures, but as of now we're not sure," said Derwart, who has a 3.7 grade-point average. "I mean, I've been doing everything I'm supposed to be doing and I still get them. I got one two days ago, but it wasn't bad. I have it pretty much under control."
She added: "They've just become a part of my life and I have to work around them. Nobody's perfect. It's not a big deal to me anymore. I just accept it."
And she doesn't let the possibility of an attack slow her down on the field. "During games I don't even care," said Derwart, who stays on a modified diet and makes trips during the school day to the health room for snacks. "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen because I'm playing my heart out. I'm not going to let it stand in my way."
"She's driven," said her mother, Debbie, who soon will serve a second term as president of the Howard County chapter of MADD. "She knows what she wants and works hard to obtain it."
And she knows never to take anything for granted.
Pub Date: 4/05/98