A guy who wins the lottery three times in seven years would seem to be a lucky man indeed. The luck Terry Smallwood has enjoyed is about more than money, however. It is about life and death.
“I am blessed. Let me just tell you, I am still here for a reason,” said Smallwood, a 53-year-old U.S. Army retiree living in Germantown, Md., and a PBA member who has bowled numerous regional and national PBA tournaments. “I had two ventricular tachycardias. That’s where your heart beats so fast until it stops.”
Smallwood was forced to retire from the Army in 1990 after 13 years of service when he was diagnosed with a condition called “Sarcoidosis” which, according to MayoClinic.org, “is the growth of tiny collections of inflammatory cells in different parts of your body — most commonly the lungs.”
Smallwood explains that the first of two ventricular tachycardias occurred when his “lungs were contaminated with Sarcoidosis, so I could barely breathe, which causes the heart to go out of whack because it’s beating so hard to try to pump oxygen throughout your body.”
But Smallwood caught a lucky break. He always does.
“By the grace of God, when it happened I was in the hospital, so they were able to revive me,” he explains.
Doctors gave him a defibrillator. When that device saved his life years later, it also reinforced his passion for a certain brand of bowling balls.
“In 2012 I had just come back from a volleyball tournament in Pittsburgh,” explains Smallwood, a longtime lover of volleyball who coaches girls’ volleyball at Clarksburg High School and in his capacity as Volleyball Commissioner for the Clarksburg Sports Association.
“I was in the bowling alley, and my heart rate was going fast but I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary,” he recalls. “You usually work up a little heart rate when bowling, but it was still beating fast even when I was sitting down. I said to my wife, ‘Something’s wrong.’ My device started giving me shocks, because it is trying to break the rapid heart rate. I called 911, went to the ER, and they told me I had had what they call a ‘V.T. Storm’ because it was an ongoing episode of shocks.”
Smallwood’s defibrillator had initiated the shocks in an attempt to stop another ventricular tachycardia. The naming of the episode he survived, V.T. Storm, stuck with Smallwood.
“That’s another thing that pushed me to the Storm brand of bowling balls,” explains Smallwood. “I wanted to name a bowling ball after that — the V.T. Storm.”
Inside Edition had a name for him, too. On Oct. 11, they called him “Maryland’s Luckiest Man.” Who could blame them? Smallwood had just won the lottery for the third time in seven years, a $10,000 hit playing Keno just days after winning $25,000 playing Pick 4. He had struck a $50,000 prize playing Pick 4 seven years earlier.
The check Smallwood held in the photo that ran with Inside Edition’s article told part of the story — the astonishing luck Smallwood has had playing the lottery. The jersey he wore in the photo told the rest of the story, printed as it was with the very word that signifies the life-threatening episode he faced down: “Storm.”
“That is the story of why I am still here,” he says. “That is why I say I am blessed. I am the type of person who will do anything to help anybody. I don’t worry about how much something costs; when I can help a person, I help them. I tell my kids the same thing. When you can help someone, help them. Don’t hurt yourself, but when you can help them, help them.
“I am a firm believer that what goes around, comes around. I think that is why I am still here, to help people.”
The Storm jersey he wore in the photo came signed by Storm rep Tim Mack when he purchased it online.
“I would love to meet him someday,” he says of Mack.
Smallwood says he would love to represent the Storm brand locally. Among his PBA bowling experience is a national stop he bowled last year, the PBA Xtra Frame Gene Carter’s Pro Shop Classic East in nearby Delaware, and he missed earning a senior check by just 32 pins at the PBA Pure-It Pro Shop East Open regional stop in Lebanon, Pa., in 2014, where he averaged 198 for eight games.
He says his volleyball commitments make it difficult to practice enough to “prepare mentally and physically” to bowl as much as he would like.
“I really wanted to plan to bowl in Las Vegas in November,” he says, alluding to the upcoming World Series of Bowling.
The October issue of Bowlers Journal is out now and includes an in-depth look at how Jesper Svensson sharpened his game to embark on his record-setting winning streak on the PBA Tour, the last-ever edition of our 100 Top Coaches list, reaction to the suspension of four Junior Team USA players in August, a comprehensive discussion by Gold coach and author, Michelle Mullen, on how to strike a balance between power and repetition, and much more. To subscribe now, please go here: https://www.bowlersjournal.com/subscribe/.