When Antwan Dixon found out he had aplastic anemia, he fainted.
Dixon, a standout junior defensive back and wide receiver/running back on the South Fort Myers High School football team, had received the diagnosis on the Monday after his team’s spring football game in May, one in which he did not play.
“I was going outside to move a car, and my legs just gave out under me,” Dixon said. “I’ve been dealing with it better than I thought I would.”
The symptoms began earlier in the year with a sore throat that his doctor at first diagnosed at strep throat.
As time passed, the symptoms got worse.
“My throat got swollen, and I couldn’t eat anything,” said Dixon, 16. “I lost 12 pounds in two weeks. I started to play spring football, and I couldn’t even make it out of warm-ups.”
The young man who had taken a fake punt snap 22 yards for a first down in a playoff game last season had trouble running 50 yards in practice.
“We’re blessed that I was his coach,” said Anthony Dixon, the defensive coordinator at South Fort Myers High and Antwan’s father. “He just wasn’t the same. It all started at the beginning of track season, and something just wasn’t right.
“He’d run 40-to-50 meters before he’d get tired.”
The father told his son to quit playing football until they figured out the problem.
Two months after the strep throat diagnosis, Dixon said his doctor told him he had a sinus infection. A month later he learned he had aplastic anemia, a disease of the blood that lowers blood cell and platelet counts.
Dixon takes four pills in the morning and four in the evening in order to boost those blood cell and platelet counts. He also takes daily blood pressure medication. He said he is hoping to return to the field in time for the playoffs in November. If not, he said he remains determined to play next season.
“It only happens to four out of a million teens,” Antwan Dixon said. “I didn’t think I’d be one of the four.”
When the Wolfpack began the regular season Aug. 30, Anthony Dixon encouraged his son to leave Fort Myers for the weekend with a family friend. Antwan Dixon complied and attended the Clemson University football team’s season opener, watching family friend and former South Fort Myers wide receiver Sammy Watkins score a touchdown.
“I wanted him to get away,” Anthony Dixon said. “I wanted him to enjoy himself while we played our first game.”
Anthony Dixon said he hoped his son could play football again but that the world wouldn’t end if he couldn’t.
“If he never plays again, it wouldn’t bother me one bit,” Anthony Dixon said. “I just want to see him grow up and become a father and a husband. But if he can play again and he wants to, I’m all for it.”
South Fort Myers coach Grant Redhead said he still considered Antwan Dixon a vital part of the team.
“He’s keeping his spirits up,” Redhead said. “It’s tough when you lose a player like him, but he’s a leader. He’s still a part of the team. He’s still with us at practice.”