ARDMORE, Okla. (KTEN) - Recent graduate and center for the Ardmore Tigers Parker Blankenship was born with a congenital heart defect and has undergone seven heart surgeries since he was four weeks old.

He didn't let that stop him from being the starting center for the Tigers his last two years of high school and recently signed to play at Oklahoma Panhandle State University.

However, a few months ago, Parker's whole life turned upside down.

"Well I woke up and I had chest pain, but sometimes I get that and I just thought it was a normal thing. I figured I go back to sleep, wake up, it'd be fine, but I just couldn't go to sleep. The pain just kept increasing. My friend actually woke up from my breathing," Parker said.

Parker was rushed through the doors of Mercy Hospital in Ardmore after waking up on April 3rd struggling to breath. He was transferred to OU's Children Hospital in Oklahoma City where after an eight-day stay was diagnosed with infectious endocarditis.

"Tetralogy of flow is pretty common, and we do a lot of heart surgery with kids on tetralogy of flow, but getting into carditis of that valve doesn't occur very often, and it's unfortunate because when endocarditis-- which is infection of the valve occurs-- you have to be treated with IV antibiotics which he had done."

"But despite that the infection had spread to that other valve, the aortic valve. That made it an even bigger deal because that's when we had to deal with two of his valves,"  Parker's surgeon Dr. Harold Burkhart said.

Parker stopped at nothing to make sure he crossed the stage at graduation, and right after was sent back to the hospital in Oklahoma City where they declared he was in active heart failure. Parker underwent a seven-hour open heart surgery five days later.

"I made an incision over the artery and vain in his groin and put tubes in there meaning I put a tube in the vain which took blue blood to the heart lung machine, gave it oxygen and then brought it back in the artery, and that's going on in the bypass machine. That allowed his heart to be decompressed and that machine to do the work for it, and then we were able to get in safely and get the heart off the back of the breast bone." 

"That machine is keeping him alive by pumping oxygen into his brain and organs and that allows me to stop his heart and do all those repairs while the bypass machine keeps him alive. It's unusual to have to do all this for endocarditis for an infection. There's no doubt that he's gone through a huge operation that rarely anybody can say that they have gone through this and survived that kind of caliber of operation," Dr. Burkhart said.

"We knew what was going to happen as soon as graduation was over. He didn't take pictures, maybe a couple after graduation where all the other families were out there taking pictures cause we had to go to Oklahoma City, but just to hug him and say you did it," Parker's mom Sharie Blankenship said.

Parker's football career was forced to come to an earlier end than originally anticipated, but has gotten national recognition from elite softball programs like Florida State, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State.

Thirty minutes after Parker was released from the hospital, he attended an awards ceremony where he was given the Professional Athletes Foundation Scholarship presented by the Oklahoma Chapter NFL former players association.

He was admitted into the honors program at Southeastern Oklahoma State University where he plans to study Occupational Safety and Health.

"But to look around and see grown men and women all crying too that didn't even know Parker personally and they were all crying. For them to stand up said a lot because the kid gave up a lot," Sharie said.

"The day he's released from the hospital he actually started some type of online class at Southeastern. I mean he's just a warrior. He refuses to lose. He refuses to quit. He's the best teacher in Ardmore right now in my opinion because of what he's faced, what he's overcome, the way he handles it, his attitude. Everything," Ardmore head football coach Josh Newby said.

"Applying at Southeastern and getting into the honors program, it makes me feel like I have more in me. To keep going on," Parker said.