Former Amateur Standout Defeated Debilitating Disease, Now Returning as Pro

By Caryn A. Tate on July 4, 2018
Former Amateur Standout Defeated Debilitating Disease, Now Returning as Pro
“I went to doctors and they’d tell me, ‘There’s nothing wrong.’” (Courtesy Elvis Medrano)

It would be understandable and perhaps justifiable if Elvis were angry. But he doesn’t carry his experience in a negative way…

Elvis Medrano was once one of the best amateur fighters in the nation and his future path was clear. He was ranked number 10 in the country, won the Washington, D.C. Golden Gloves, and was close to qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team.

Then, suddenly, everything changed. Elvis remembers the exact date his life changed. “On May 19 in 2012, I started to notice I got really tired for no reason. It kept getting worse gradually to the point where I could only go one round and I was done. It was embarrassing because people would come to see me from all the gyms.

“I went to doctors and they’d tell me, ‘You’re fine. There’s nothing wrong.’ It took months. My right arm started swelling like [I’d gotten] a snake bite. I’d go to the doctor but every time I got there my arm was perfectly normal, so they were looking at me like I was an idiot.

“So I took pictures and I’d show it to them, and eventually after going to quite a few of them I found one, a doctor from Texas. He knew that a lot of baseball players sometimes develop thorasic outlet syndrome. It’s when veins get compressed. In my case, the vein was going through the first rib and the clavicle, so it got pinched. Then the platelets got stuck together in little clusters and they clogged my airways. So it eventually got to a point where I couldn’t walk and I’d just fall to the ground.”

After about nine months, Medrano had the offending rib surgically removed. The removal helped with his arm swelling, but unfortunately didn’t fix his breathing problems.

“I went to so many doctors. They said, ‘Oh, maybe you developed some kind of psychological disorder because of what you went through before.’ They did a number of tests for tuberculosis because I was born in the Dominican Republic, and it’s common down there. But I didn’t have that. We tested for Lyme disease but I didn’t have that.”

By this point, Elvis’ health had deteriorated to the point where he had to use portable oxygen for 24 hours a day. Eventually, after being misdiagnosed or dismissed by more than 45 doctors, Elvis found Oksana Shlobin, MD and her team at Inova Fairfax Hospital, who discovered the cause of Elvis’ health issues.

“They did some scans to get a more detailed look at what was going on in the lungs. Lo and behold, I had a bunch of blood clots blocking all of the arteries in the lungs. So that was the reason why I couldn’t walk or do anything.”

Elvis was diagnosed with a rare disease called chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH), a rare form of pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs). CTEPH is a serious form of PH that can lead to heart failure and death if not properly treated. When properly diagnosed, CTEPH may be treatable and potentially curable through surgery. Each year, between 500 and 2500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the condition.

Unfortunately, there was still more fighting for Elvis to do. His health battle wasn’t over yet. “From there they did a form of open heart surgery called PTE. They cut through the chest to get to the lungs. The recovery was extremely slow and painful after that. The breastbone was broken in half, being held together by metal. It took me about six months before I could go back to work.”

Having gone through everything he has, it would be understandable and perhaps justifiable if Elvis were angry. But he doesn’t carry his experience in a negative way.

“The doctors who actually knew what was going on did the best they could,” Elvis said. “But it was such a complicated and rare thing and so few people know about it, even now.”

Instead of being angry or focusing on the past, Medrano has decided to use his experiences and his fighter mentality and heart to reach others who may need moral support or education about the condition. The Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) has invited Elvis to be their 2018 celebrity champion. On June 29, Elvis was the PHA’s guest at their annual conference and delivered a speech to more than 2000 people.

“My whole objective of being part of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association is to raise awareness. That’s why I did this speech, to encourage people who are going through this. When I went through it, I felt like I was the only person dealing with this.”

Elvis’ extensive boxing background and fighter mentality helped him overcome what was likely the most difficult opponent he’ll ever face. “It was a really painful, aggravating, stressful situation that I had to go through. Spending thousands of dollars—I didn’t have insurance at the time, either. Having doctors tell me they don’t know what’s wrong.

“All these years I spent boxing, I wasn’t going to let it go to waste. It was my only reason for living, really. I was gonna fight till I die. If I die, or I get broke because I spent all my money on medicine and all these things, so be it. But I’m gonna fight to the end. I’m not gonna just quit. I don’t take no for an answer, and all these doctors told me I was gonna live like this for the rest of my life. I told them that was not gonna happen. I’m fighting normally now.”

Medrano has now turned professional and hopes to have his first bout as a pro in August in Virginia. Because of his time away from the sport, Elvis is essentially having to start from the beginning and catch the eye of a good promoter who can help him advance his career.

He is philosophical about what he’s learned over the last few years and in the ring, and how those truths apply to every aspect of life. “Boxing is an intellectual sport. Only intelligent men are the ones who get to the top and stay at the top. Talent will get you there but it won’t let you stay.

“In boxing I learned to set yourself up for success. Not by being tough, but by being smart. Making the right choices at the right time, taking the right steps, getting the right people on your side.”

Medrano summed up his mindset now that he’s defeated CTEPH, and where he plans to go from here.

“Just like I defeated that, I will defeat every opponent that they put in front of me. And I will be champion of the world.”

Follow Elvis as he continues his journey on Instagram at @140eternal. Read more about his health battle here.

Check out more of Caryn’s work at http://www.CarynATate.com and follow her on Twitter@carynatate

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  1. ceylon mooney 06:22pm, 07/06/2018

    got dam what a fighter. wow.

  2. Kid Blast 07:04pm, 07/04/2018

    Great story Caryn. Quality stuff.

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