EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Jack Winkler was hitting his stride.
“I started out really well and I think I won six or seven matches in a row to start out the year. Then I had a couple of big wins that shot me into the national rankings.”
Then the unthinkable happened.
“We actually were at practice. I was hitting with my teammates and we were hitting at the outdoor courts. I looked at my coach and was like can I go to the bathroom? Twenty minutes later I had to go to the bathroom again. I realized at that point something was really wrong.”
A year prior, Jack was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. It’s an inflammatory bowl disease that is able to tame with medicine. A year later, that medicine stopped working. Jack got sicker and sicker by the second.
“I ended up spending a couple of days in the ICU and I don’t remember any of it. We had to make the decision to remove the colon. That was a gut wrenching process because I knew how long of a recovery and how long of a process it was going to be to get back to normal. I didn’t even know at that point if I could get back to being normal.”
But getting back to normal came secondary. Jack just wanted to stay alive.
“I don’t really know what dying feels like but i’d imagine it would feel something like the way I felt. Just trying to get a breath in and a breath out.”
Jack spent 75 days in the hospital.
“I had to learn to walk again and learn how to go up the stairs. The first time I tried to go up the stairs to my bed I had to crawl up. I couldn’t walk up because my legs were so weak. It’s just something you don’t really understand until you go through it. How much it changes you as a person. You realize how fragile life is and how good you really have it.”
Close to a year later and Jack is weeks away from being cleared to get back on that court. Something he had to put on hold all of last season.
” I’ve dreamed about this day for 9 months now.”