Glen Cove High School student Heather Artinian may be the hardest working student-athlete on Long Island.
As a star athlete on Big Red's girls' varisty volleyball, basketball and lacrosse teams, Artinian would give 'Bo' Jackson, the former MLB and NFL player, a run for his money. Oh, and Patch can't forget to mention that she also consistently performs at the top of her class.
But that's only part of her awe-inspiring story.
Artinian was also born deaf. It's a characteristic that runs in her family. Her father, Peter, and mother, Nita, are legally deaf, and so are her two brothers, Timmy, and C.J. She also has an aunt and four cousins who are hearing-impaired.
Curious about the hearing world, Artinian began asking her parents if she could have cochlear implant surgery at the age of 5. They said no because they felt she would slowly distance herself from the deaf community, and they believed that she was too young to make her own choices at the time.
Four years later, however, they relented, and agreed to let their daughter have the procedure because they realized that she was mature enough to make her own decision. Now, at 17, Artinian balances the two worlds seamlessly.
"I was totally living in the deaf world," Artinian said with the assistance of a sign language interpreter during an interview with Patch on Tuesday. "Everyone was deaf. My parents were worried I would forget about them, or forget about the deaf culture. But I don't have any problems with it now. I go back and fourth—no problem."
Artinian set a precedent, inspiring her mother, aunt, brothers and four cousins to have the operation. But her father decided against it because, she said, he is happy with what he has.
As a child, Artinian had sports to lean on to help her bond with her peers. She started playing basketball, her favorite sport, when she was 6.
Artinian held her own with the boys, and being a girl wasn't an issue with them, nor was the fact that she couldn't hear. The only thing that mattered was her ability to play the game.
"If you're good, people don't care," she said regarding her athletic ability and lack of hearing, respectively.
The 5-foot-6 point guard led Big Red to a 10-4 league record this season, and the team finished in second place in conference play. She also earned All-Conference honors.
But she missed most of the lacrosse campaign and six weeks of school, including her junior prom, in the spring because of bouts of pneumonia and mononucleosis — a common viral illness that can leave you feeling exhausted and wiped out for an extended period of time.
As a testament to her work ethic and commitment to school and athletics, however, Artinian worked tirelessly to catch up on her school assignments, and even returned to the field at the end of her junior season.
"I felt horrible," she said. "I missed a month and a half of school. It took me three weeks to about a month to catch up on the school work."
But, Jacquie Gow, coach of Big Red girls' varsity lacrosse team, said she isn't surprised Artinian worked her way back to classroom so smoothly without much extrinsic motivation.
"Heather doesn't need a lot of pushing, because she pushes herself," Gow said. "She's worked so hard to get back. To get back when you've been out of school six weeks already, to get those [great] grades, is still very difficult."
And somehow Artinian has surmounted yet another hurdle in her life, proving that you can rebound and score when it matters most.