By Adam Malmut
While in high school, Hofstra University softball star Kayleigh Lotti underwent open heart surgery to remedy a heart condition that endangered her life. After three seasons on Hofstra’s softball team, Lotti has set a record for strikeouts (958) and an all-time 82-27 record.
“After the surgery I basically had to start over. It became even more important for me to return to softball. It was a turning point in my life.”
Q: How important has softball been to you throughout your life?
KL: It’s been very important, especially after my heart surgery. I was a 12-year-old little girl when my dad got me into softball. Reflecting now, it’s kind of my getaway.
Q: I heard you had open-heart surgery in high school. Why did you need the surgery and how did it affect your life?
KL: I was born with a heart condition and they didn’t pick it up back then. The doctors told me it was something that should have been taken care of when I was born. It went way too long without being fixed.
I first found out about it when we went to Colorado for a softball tournament in high school and I was having arm pains. My dad took me to a walk-in clinic while we were there and they told me I needed heart surgery right away. They told me that nobody had lived passed 21 who had the same condition.
I had a coarctation of the aorta, which means my aorta was narrowed in a spot to the point where it was almost completely closed. The condition blocks the right flow of blood from getting to my lower body. After the surgery, I had better circulation. It saved my life.
Q: Were you scared that you might not be able to play softball anymore?
KL: I wasn’t nervous at all at first. All I was thinking about was getting out of school for two weeks. Right before I went into surgery I was nervous and was thinking about how serious it could be. It was painful afterwards but I still came back to play even after they said I might not be able to. Three months later I was pitching again. I lost 25 pounds but I recovered pretty quickly.
Q: What was your most memorable moment as a pitcher?
KL: I would say it was last year during the CAA tournament. I pitched every game. We lost one, and coach said I’m going to have to pitch three games straight. We had to beat James Madison twice that day. The third game we went into extra innings and I was totally exhausted. I kept thinking that I didn’t want be the first to lose the streak (then 11- championships in a row). The team and I always talk about not losing the streak. My arm and legs felt like they were about to fall off. Winning that day was the most memorable.
Q: What is your “dream job?”
KL: I would really like to be a sideline reporter. I want to talk to people at the games; I think it would be really fun.
Q: Name the most important goal you have in your life, and explain why it means so much to you.
KL: Well, like any baseball player would tell you, and I know it may be a cliché, but I would love to go to the World Series.
Q: What is your favorite activity aside from softball?
KL: In the summer I really like to go jet skiing. I’m kind of a goofball so I like to go bowling and stuff. Most of my friends on campus are on the softball team so they usually come up with some crazy fun stuff to do.
For the full story, check out the Spring issue of Pulse, available now.