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The fight of his life: At just 21, former Marquette baseball, basketball star Garrett Finkbeiner trying to recover from heart condition

The Marquette Blues' Garrett Finkbeiner pitches against the Copper County Flames in a July 2016 game at the Gerard Haley Memorial Field in Marquette. (Journal file photo)

“The outpouring of support has just been so overwhelming and gratifying.” — Wendy Finkbeiner, Garrett Finkbeiner’s mother, about well wishes received, many online through Facebook

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MARQUETTE — A Marquette family couldn’t thank all the well-wishers individually for wishes for a full recovery for their 21-year-old son, so mom Wendy Finkbeiner hopes she can tell them all in a “group hug.”

“I just want to make sure everyone knows that the outpouring of support has just been so overwhelming and gratifying,” she said about Garrett Finkbeiner, who is a patient in the intensive care unit in the Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids.

Family friend Holly Warchock brought a Facebook site public last weekend, Future For Fink <3 (F4F), the “<3" an emoji/emoticon for a heart.

Marquette's Garrett Finkbeiner, left, drives to the basket while Negaunee's Dylan Tasson defends during a high school boys basketball game played Feb. 18, 2016, at Marquette Senior High School. (Journal file photo)

Wendy Finkbeiner mentioned that is a good place to send well wishes and prayers, and for those not active on social media, cards can be sent to Spectrum Health Butterworth, 100 Michigan St. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, Attention: Garrett Finkbeiner, Room 5810.

She and her husband, Garrett’s father Bill Finkbeiner, also mentioned that Garrett’s roommate at Central Michigan University, Travis Christensen of Marquette, started a GoFundMe page to help defer Garrett’s and his family’s expenses.

Others who know the family well have also started several other online support networks.

Garrett’s serious diagnosis of cardiomyopathy was made in March, and his prognosis hasn’t improved, but instead has gotten to the point where he has been placed in a medically induced coma to help his body recover from several surgeries.

“He was in a lot pain after he spent 16 hours in surgery in a span of less than 24 hours,” Bill Finkbeiner said. “Even in the coma, though, he’s been able to respond to our voices and squeeze our hands when asked to.”

Marquette's Garrett Finkbeiner, below, looks for an open teammate after winning a rebound against Traverse City West's Trevor Goudey during an MHSAA Division 1 district quarterfinal high school basketball game at Traverse City West High School in March 2015. (Traverse City Record-Eagle photo)

The coma is to allow Garrett to recover enough strength so he can be placed on a heart transplant list, as his heart is enlarged to the point it can’t be counted on to do its primary job, pumping blood throughout Garrett’s body.

Instead, he had surgeries to attach two pumps for an assist to his heart.

Despite the serious prognosis, his parents are both optimistic and hopeful about their son’s future.

“It going to be a marathon, there’s no other way to say it,” Bill Finkbeiner said. “There’s no specific time frame — we’ve heard weeks, a month, maybe months — for a recovery.

“But he has his (young) age on his side, and the fact he’s an athlete. There’s a lot going for him.”

He also said that Garrett has dealt with these problems in a calm, mature way despite his relative youth, which should also help him in the long run.

Finkbeiner was a student in the 2019-20 school year at CMU in Mount Pleasant, majoring in sports management and minoring in marketing. In fact, he had an internship lined up this summer with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers minor league baseball team in Appleton.

Doctors have told the Finkbeiners it’s very possible that a virus caused the cardiomyopathy, which began with complaints about his stomach and not being able to eat when he first visited a Big Rapids hospital.

Without being able to initially diagnose a cause, doctors ordered tests that included a CT scan, which first showed his enlarged heart.

“That was on March 11,” Bill Finkbeiner said. “They got him stabilized at the Meijer heart clinic in Grand Rapids on March 12. That’s how fast things happened.”

He was on medication to treat his condition, but on April 12, Garrett was having problems again and was back in Grand Rapids a day later.

Those March dates might sound familiar — the first days that the coronavirus pandemic forced the shutdown of things ranging from sports events to many businesses.

It has complicated things, though it doesn’t seem to have affected Garrett’s actual health, with visits to him in the hospital being curtailed.

“They had brought in an iPod camera so we could talk to him that way,” Wendy Finkbeiner said.

“Usually, one of us will visit him each day,” Bill Finkbeiner said, adding that Garrett’s brother and sister, Nate and Courtney, haven’t been able to physically visit during his time in Grand Rapids.

The family has stayed at a hotel in that area, though has moved into an apartment that gives them more room and amenities like a kitchen, through Connect To Care, an organization that could be compared to Beacon House in Marquette.

Garrett Finkbeiner was a star on the baseball field as a pitcher and basketball court as a forward at Marquette Senior High School, where he graduated in 2017. He also spent significant time in the American Legion Post 44 baseball system that includes the Marquette Blues and Reds.

He went on to play for a season in each of those sports at Bay de Noc Community College in Escanaba from 2017-19.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.

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