JACKSON — Everyone has that one thing in life they use as an escape. Whether it be something as simple as knitting or proactive like hiking. 

For Jackson’s Drew Bragg, his escape if he was having a bad day or just needed some time to himself was always sports. 

No matter if he was shooting a basketball, catching a football, or throwing a baseball, he was always at his best playing any type of sport. 

But what if the one thing you loved so much was also causing you the most pain? 

That situation is ultimately what he’s been dealing with ever since sixth grade when he started to randomly throw up after a little league game. 

What was thought to be a random isolated incident turned out to be something much more serious, yet somehow still a mystery.

“I’ll never forget it. We were at state basketball in sixth grade, and we had just upset Upper Arlington. We’re all celebrating, and we get back to the hotel, and I just start throwing up uncontrollably,” Bragg said. “We all figured I was just sick from the food and didn’t think much of it after that. I was fine the next day, but it kept happening after every game throughout the whole tournament.

“It started happening again after seventh grade basketball, so I started going to doctor after doctor to see what the problem was. It’s like playing with the flu every single time, but I didn’t want to stop playing though because I love sports so much, so I just kept fighting and grinding it out the best I could.”

While he had appointment after appointment, the problem was he wasn’t getting any answers as doctors couldn’t single in on anything that was wrong. 

Then came freshman football and he scored his very first touchdown, but not without paying a price. 

“I made the catch, but I got the wind knocked out of me. I was helped off the field, and my stomach just didn’t feel right at all,” Bragg said. “Then I started to bleed when I was using the bathroom, so I went to Children’s Hospital and saw that I had a grade three lacerated kidney, so that forced me to take two months off.

“Then doctors called my mom and told her that I had a condition called heterotaxy.” 

According to childrenshospital.org, heterotaxy is a rare condition where many organs in the body can be formed abnormally, in the wrong position, or even missing. It’s unknown what causes heterotaxy, but some symptoms include fast breathing, frequent vomiting, difficult feeding, and poor weight gain.

After receiving that diagnosis, Bragg had some tough decisions to make upon entering high school. But there was also one big question he had to ask himself: Is it completely worth it? 

He ultimately decided yes it was and took off on his varsity sports career by being a three-sport athlete in football, basketball, and baseball. 

Though he was enjoying every minute of his sports seasons with his friends, most games though often came with a hefty price in the end. 

“Everyone after games would go meet up somewhere, and meanwhile, I’m home throwing up everything and trying to recover,” Bragg said. “It takes a lot out of you physically and wears on your mentality. The worst was having back-to-back games during basketball season. I’d feel like I’m in the fight of my life Friday night and all-day Saturday, then show up that evening and muster up everything I could to play another 28-32 minutes. It was definitely taxing.” 

Still yet, it didn’t deter the senior from playing sports, especially his senior season as he was an important piece of Jackson’s football team that won 10 games and claimed an FAC championship. 

However, as basketball season rolled around this season, he had one of the toughest talks with Jackson coach Max Morrow. And one that he didn’t want to make but understood the ramifications if he didn’t. 

“I talked to doctors following football season, and they told me that if I continued to empty out my stomach after every sporting event that it could cause severe damage to my kidneys, which could lead to other things,” Bragg said. “So, I called Coach Morrow and we had a heart-to-heart talk. I understood what my role on the team was and my impact, and I wanted to play so bad. But I had to make the choice to sit out, though I still wanted to be around and a part of the team.” 

For the first time in a while, he made a decision to give up a sport. Something he never dreamed he might do. 

But once the tournament draw came, that itch he had to get on the court was just too much and he knew it was time. 

“I was absolutely dying to get on the court, and I told Coach that I wanted to play. We only had five regular season games left and tournaments, I wanted to have something of a senior year,” Bragg said. “My teammates were all for me coming back, so we took off and decided to make a little history along the way. It’s all about perseverance.”

The throwing up didn’t stop after every game, but every ounce of fluid that came up was worth the ride in his eyes. 

Luckily, once baseball season rolled around, he’s substantially in less pain since the game doesn’t require the same exertion as the other two sports. 

He was pure money every time he took the mound as he finished 5-0 on the season with a 1.09 ERA in 32 innings and struck out 53 batters, leading Jackson to a second-straight 20-win season alongside a share of the FAC title. 

Although Bragg’s high school career ended on Wednesday with a 9-2 loss to Circleville in a Division II sectional final, his playing career still has another chapter to write. 

He signed to play baseball at the next level alongside teammates Holden Blankenship and Caeleb McGraw at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, which proved to himself that all the pain and suffering after every game was completely worth it. 

“Earning that scholarship meant everything to me,” Bragg said. “Baseball is my favorite sport, and I was going to do anything to be able to play at the next level. The chance to play with two of my friends as well is incredible. I’m looking forward to it and it’s going to be a great four years.”