How the Thunder have helped me fight my auto-immune disease
Some people view athletes as stuck up, big-headed and uncaring about their fans. But, when it comes to the AFL that's not the case.
My name is Olivia Trueb. I was born without an immune system, but I was diagnosed when I was 10 years old. What I have is called CVID also known as Common Variable Immune Deficiency. Not a lot of people know about this particular disease. What that means is that if I get sick, I’m at a higher risk of dying since I don’t have anything to fight it off. This isn’t something that can be cured, but it is treatable. Through blood donations I get my medicine, which is like blood concentrate in a way. My weekly medicine is about 40,000 blood donations. I will have to be on that medicine for the rest of my life.
I first met the Portland Thunder through the CCA, the Children's Cancer Association. They had told me a local sports team had offered to play "Minute to Win It" with chronically ill children like me. Upon showing up to the event, I realized I was the only one who came. Imagine me, a 16-year old girl in a room with 20 or so AFL football players, all of whom were getting ready to play ridiculous games and have a good time.
Of course I won the majority of the games, though if that was due to them allowing me to or my own skills has yet to be discovered. That day was amazing, I began to realize that not all athletes are stuck up. From that point on, I became more involved with the Thunder. This season, they had asked me to flip the coin at the season opener game. Of course I jumped at the chance.
I realize one of the reasons they play the game, aside from the love and respect they have for such an amazing sport is how it feels to stand in the middle of an arena full of fans. It's exhilarating.
After the game I went down with all the other fans to get things signed by the team. I chatted up with a few of the players who really stood out to me while playing games at the CCA. One of the guys, defensive lineman Jake McDonough was sitting, smiling along with his teammates after an amazing win. He took the time to talk to me between fans, asking me if I enjoyed the game and how I've been feeling. After a while of talking, he invited me to come watch a practice. Smiling, I graciously accept the offer promising to bring cookies.
Since that first practice, I have been making about 10 dozen cookies, three different kinds, two of my own recipes, once a week for the guys. It feels nice to make them smile after a hard practice, they say that me coming and bringing cookies makes their day. And really it makes my day, to be able to give back a little bit of how much they do for me.
While I sit and watch them practice, I learn more about the game and not only the physical demands, but the mental as well. I sit and talk with the injured players, sympathizing as I watch them wish they were practicing with their teammates. Brandon Tett, also a defensive lineman has been especially nice to talk to me after he was injured. It is hard for any injured athlete to watch as the game goes on without them.
Currently, I do as much as I can for the Thunder -- Hanging posters, passing out flyers, informing people on the games, trying to fill seats to make the more successful. But still, it does not feel like enough for how much they have done for me. I just want other people to see how amazing, fun and exciting Arena Football is.
Last month when I went into the hospital for my treatment, fullback John Collins had offered to come visit me for an hour. Boy, was I surprised when seven football players walked into my hospital room with big goofy grins on their faces.
They brought me not only their presence, but a gift bag of Thunder merchandise. They also surprised me by staying for two hours where we just sat and talked. I learned about what happens in a huddle, how the guys really mesh together on the field and how much the opposing teams smack talk when we can't hear them. Nothing was quite as strange, or quite as wonderful than to feel so loved by people you do not completely know of yet. And just remember, it's all started back when I hated sports. Now, I can't sleep the night before a game.
I've had a lot of unique moments in my life that not a lot of teenagers can say they have had. I’ve met celebrities, gone to movie premieres, been in papers, in commercials, walked on the home court of the Trail Blazers and even played basketball with a few of them.
But nothing has been quite as important as that first day when I said yes to a CCA event involving some silly football players. Now, I know I mean a lot to the Portland Thunder, but not nearly as much as they mean to me.