Rising to the occasion – it’s what 17-year-old Jalen Brown does best.
Jalen will be a senior this year on Brookland-Cayce High School’s football team. The prospect of college is less than a year away. He wants to pursue both the game and a degree in mechanical engineering.
“I really want to show my coaches, the team, other coaches from college that I can really play,” Jalen said. “I've been doing this my whole life. I really want to win a state championship this year. I want to be the best I can be for my team, for me family. I want to show everyone that I can really do it.”
But that passion is checked on the sideline this summer, after a life-altering operation this spring.
"They told me if it was one problem they would just give me the medicine to fix it,” Jalen said. “But if it was another, I'd have to go straight to surgery that day. So I went straight to surgery that day."
The official diagnosis: pituitary apoplexy. Jalen had a tumor on his pituitary gland. He could barely see a thing, and his brother had to help him get around school.
"It got to the point where I couldn't even walk up to the steps without holding the rail real tight."
The tumor had hemorrhaged – he was bleeding and losing the little vision he had left quickly. That was when Jalen's coach noticed him wandering the hallways at school.
“He took me to the elevator and took me straight to the nurse," Jalen said. "He was telling me 'I love you. I got you no matter what. I'm right behind you.'”
From the nurse’s office, to the E.R., to Palmetto Health pediatric neurosurgeon Dr Stanley Skarli – who operated just two days after Jalen wound up in the hospital.
"He didn't have nearly any vision in one eye and only one small portion in the other eye,” Dr. Skarli said.
It was a rare tumor and a rare approach. Surgeons operated through Jalen's nose, essentially scooping out the tumor and avoiding opening up his skull. He's almost four months out from that surgery.
“It's serious,” Jalen said. “It makes me look at life different…at what could've happened. Now that it didn't, I'm alright. I just thank the Lord every day you know that I don't have to go through that.”
While Jalen now has almost 20-20 vision – his vision of the future is not as clear. It now hinges on another scoreboard. It’s a score that will determine whether or not Jalen will step over the white sideline this fall and back on the field.
“I've been to a couple appointments and they said I'm doing fantastic," Jalen said. "My recovery is going well. The 21st is my big day I feel like. So right now, they're letting me do everything but lift weights. My next appointment is the 21st and I feel like that's the day I feel like they're gonna "yes or no" me. And I'm hoping it's a yes.”
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