When the doctors told Landon Brice a few years ago he could no longer play contact sports such as football, soccer and basketball, it didn’t stop him. Brice discovered tennis and skiing and bowling.
“He just wants to live his life,” said Jared Gerbino, the Rush-Henrietta standout senior quarterback and one of Brice’s classmates. “He doesn’t want anything to hold him back even if it’s a big obstacle.”
That hurdle is primary sclerosing cholangitis, a serious liver disease that has Brice on the transplant list at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Brice, 17, was the honorary captain for R-H at Saturday’s homecoming game. He donned a No. 46 jersey with his name on the back and the Royal Comets also wore special “LB” decals on their helmets. An honor roll student who likes graphic design, Brice crafted the logo himself.
Rival Pittsford (3-0) won the game over R-H (2-1), 36-33, but the day was still special for Brice, his family and some R-H players including Gerbino who were his teammates in youth sports. Brice was a running back and quarterback. In baseball, he played shortstop and pitched. Gerbino called him “speedy” and “very athletic.”
“He’s one of us, a fellow student,” Gerbino said. “Just knowing what he’s going through and that we can’t do anything about it is hard.”
But they did on Saturday, an emotional afternoon for Brice and his extended family that attended. Rick Gerbino, Jared’s father and one of Brice’s former coaches in basketball coaches, helped organize the day.
“It’s nice to know that they support me,” Brice said of R-H coach Joe Montesano and his varsity squad. “I did used to play with them in all my sports and I kind of miss that, but it’s still cool to watch them.”
Brice will take that positive sentiment with him Tuesday to Pittsburgh. He has a regularly scheduled appointment.
He sees a doctor locally, but must make trips to Pittsburgh for checkups about every three months, said his mother, Pinky Brice. Strong Memorial is also a transplant hospital, but it’s for adults. Pittsburgh has a pediatric facility, she said.
“I live by my phone,” she said, alluding to the call she and her husband, Doug, hope to get one day telling them a liver that matches her son’s needs is ready. “Once they call us we have to be to Pittsburgh within six hours.”
Landon was put on the transplant list in April when his condition worsened. He was diagnosed about four years ago and had to discontinue contact sports after his freshman year. He missed the final month of school last May and summer wasn’t great either, but he has bounced back, No one’s surprised by that.
“He’s one determined boy,” his mother said.
A lot of youngsters recoil from activities when dealing with a serious illness, and Pinky Brice said her son has had his share of bad days, which are to be expected. But the challenges the disease has presented have pushed him, too.
Brice is on the brink of becoming an Eagle Scout.
“It’s helped him meet new people and do new things. He doesn’t just sit around,” his mother said. “He’s learned from it and grown from it. He’s a fighter. He’s not going to give up on anything.”
His favorite teams are Bayern Munich in soccer, the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Jaguars in the NFL, the Miami Heat in basketball and the New York Yankees in baseball.
Brice said he’d probably never even have tried tennis if his medical condition hadn’t happened. He may wish he could still stand in there at quarterback and have a team follow him like his pal Gerbino does, but Brice’s outlook on life is one to emulate, too.
“Sometimes it is hard, but you can’t focus on (your condition) all the time,” he said. “You have to keep doing as much as you can and focus on the good things in life and what you can do instead of what you can’t.”