A high school football player’s dreams were dashed last year when a rolled ankle led to the discovery of chronic kidney disease. A.J. Jefferson, now a sophomore in Forsyth, Ga., first sought help after his ankle wouldn’t heal and his legs began to swell, according to Fox 5 Atlanta.
Doctors soon discovered that he was experiencing symptoms of kidney failure, and the then-freshman was forced to trade in his pads for eight hours of dialysis every day.
“They told me I couldn’t play football anymore,” Jefferson, who also plays basketball for Mary Pearsons High School, told Fox 5 Atlanta.
But still, Jefferson has showed up for practice, offering his support for the sideline as he waits for news of a donor. Possible matches can sign up for a screening through Emory University.
“I have a deep love for the game,” he told the news outlet. “I’ve played since I was little and it’s helping to come out here and be around the guys.”
Jefferson told WAGA that the support he has received from his community has also helped him cope with his condition. Per the Monroe County Reporter, about 50 friends and family members of Jefferson gathered at the school football field on Saturday to show support for his fight with nephrotic syndrome.
According to the Reporter, on Aug. 21 Jefferson received notification that he is eligible for a kidney transplant, meaning potential donors can be tested to see if they are a match.
“It’s been mind-blowing to have a community that supports you through hard times, to have teammates, coaches, friends and loved ones all back you up,” Jefferson told WAGA. “It really means a lot.”