By Jerry Del Priore
In his freshman year at Chatham High School in New Jersey, soccer player Aedan Joel began to notice that his lymph nodes in the groin region were swollen right before a tournament in Virginia, in which he was scheduled to play with his club team, Parssipany Soccer Club.
Though he was in pain, Joel flew down to Virginia for the competition.
Still experiencing a measure of agony with each step taken, he decided to gut it out and play. Miraculously, the striker said he was able to block out the pain and still perform well.
“I played through it, and It hurt a lot,” Joel said. “But I was able to play pretty well still.”
As Joel exited the field, however, he couldn’t get his shoes off due to his swollen feet.
“It was crazy,” he recollected of the time his feet blew up beyond recognition. But then came the diagnosis of cellulitis — a common, potentially serious bacterial skin infection that usually enters the body through a crack or break in the skin and affects the skin on the lower legs. But it can also occur in the face, arms and other areas of the body. It may be life-threatening if left untreated in extreme cases, medical experts believe.
A total team player, Joel inquired about hitting the pitch while still dealing with the aliment. While the doctor told him couldn’t, he wanted to stay and watch his club participate in the event. But the pain was much too unbearable even for that.
“First, I asked them if I could keep playing through it,” the 17-year-old, who also runs track, recalled. “And the doctor told me the seriousness of the illness, and so I kind of realized I would have to fly back home with my mom. I tried to stay to watch my team, and I just couldn’t; I was feeling that bad.”
What followed was a regimen of medication, rest and walking with a cane. Joel said he missed three weeks of school, and didn’t see the pitch again for approximately three months.
The doctor told Joel that they had to make sure that the bone wouldn’t become infected, which would have brought on another whole set of problems.
“That was a little bit of a scare,” Joel said of the possible prognosis. “But I kind of just kept my faith high, and I didn’t worry that much. I knew I was in good hands.”
Asked if his strong Catholic faith helped surmount his trying ordeal, Joel said: “I would say a whole lot, because it is a life-threaten disease; I don’t know if it was in my case, but hearing that it was life-threaten was pretty scary.
“My faith was probably the most important part of getting me through that,” said Joel, who is active in St. Patrick’s Youth Ministry. “I would pray twice a day, probably. It helped my mind set. I think it helped me get better.”
Since then, Joel has rounded into one of the Cougars’ finest players and a great team leader, all while pulling very good grades in high school.
Chatham Cougars head coach Mark Maka sang Joel’s praises as a player as well as his good character, bringing immeasurable qualities to the pitch that make him so valuable to the squad.
“Aedan’s been fantastic,” Maka said. “He leads through example, and always shows that level of commit; you can see it in the way he plays.
“As a player, he’s extremely important with what he brings to the field,” he continued. “But again, I think, what he brings is that intangible piece. As a senior, guys look up to a player who scores goals and does the stuff he does on the field for us. And the fact that he carries himself as a gentleman all the time is the best part about it.”
With Division I college soccer aspirations, Joel feels he possesses the physical abilities to make it as a walk-on in the collegiate ranks. But picking a good college for its studies is first and foremost on his list, plus a solid campus life, he noted.
“I know I have the ability to walk-on to any team, and my academics are pretty good right now,” Joel said. “So I know I can go to a school that will fit me academically. It’s a matter of finding the right fit academically and socially. I know that, with my academic credentials, I can pull out a good school. I could always walk-on to any school that has a soccer team, I think.”
The Cougars’ next match is on Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. versus host Mendham High School
To view to Joel’s soccer highlights, log onto https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWCrNo9orXA