It’s the little things in life that can make such a huge difference. No I’m not talking about the few inches between converting for the first down or having to punt the ball. Even as NFL fans, we sometimes need to put football aside & look at the bigger picture just like the Jaguars center, Brad Meester.
On New Year’s Eve 2010, 6-year-old Luke Akerstrom’s life took a dramatic turn. Luke was riding in the back seat of the family car when he started having a seizure. The seizure lasted for 35 minutes which has left him since confined to a wheelchair. Two days after Luke had a fever of 101 degrees the seizure occurred. Over the months Luke has spent in the hospital he has endured feeding tubes, X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, EEGs and spinal taps and he received several antibiotics, steroids, chemotherapy and a plasma exchange. Luke was initially treated for bacterial and viral meningitis, and was eventually diagnosed with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. Essentially, Luke had a rare brain inflammation – which included symptoms seen only twice before at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville.
“Mommy,” he said to his mother a few weeks ago, “I have to walk because Jaguars don’t roll, they run.”
It was that brave attitude that has helped this little boy achieve his dream. On Thursday, Luke joined the Jaguars at their training camp. Luke was ready to start the day at 5:30 a.m. exclaiming, “Dad, you know we have to be there at 10:30.” His dad had to remind him that it was only 5:00 a.m. Finally after arriving at the field Akerstrom took five steps on the team’s training field, the first he had taken alone since December 31st. Waiting on the field was Brad Meester and the rest of the Jaguars players and coaches.
“I’ve really learned from him about never giving up,” Meester stated as he introduced Luke to the team.”When I look at [training camp], this is nothing. This is easy compared to what this kid is going through. No matter what challenge he’s faced with, he meets it head on. What we face is nothing compared to what he faces.
Meester is not the only celebrity to visit Luke. Former President George W. Bush and former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow have been to see him. But Meester means more to him than either of them. Even when Meester and Tebow visited him together and Luke was more concerned about Meester than the Denver Broncos quarterback.
Jones-Drew took Luke's hand and the two walked side by side for more than 50 yards. It was the furthest distance Luke had walked since December.
Luke’s parents are forever grateful for the confidence & enthusiasm the Jaguar nation has instilled in their child. “Brad gave our little boy something mommies never could,” Brandi said, “Mommies can love them, but they can’t make them want to be an NFL player.”
Luke will be joining the Jaguars at midfield for the coin toss of the Bengals-Jaguars game on Oct. 9. In November, Meester and his teammates expect to raise money for the family through a fundraiser. “I really hope you guys learn something from him,” Meester told his teammates after meeting Luke at training camp. There are so many things we can all learn from this young, brave boy.
To watch the touching story of Luke’s recovery click here.
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