Local boy’s health issues inspire high school lacrosse team to rally for the boy and his dad, their coach
UNIVERSITY CITY - One little boy has really been through some tough times. But, his health battles are inspiring others to take action. The players on a local high school lacrosse team are rallying around Cole and his dad, their coach.
Between the catching, cradling and winning games, the head coach of St. Joseph’s Prep lacrosse team has more than just the sport on his mind this season.
"A phone call that changes your life and we knew it was serious," stated St. Joseph’s Prep Head Coach Mark Princehorn. "He was diagnosed with biliary atresia."
Princehorn and his wife, Lindsay, learned their newborn son, Cole, was born without the ability to drain bile into intestines. He had surgery at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to correct the problem. But, months later, Cole was back at CHOP.
"Unfortunately, he went into septic shock and we almost lost him. That would be the first time they saved his life," Princehorn continued. "In the scariest moment of my life, I never felt more confident and comfortable with the people working on my kid."
Cole desperately needed a liver transplant. And, within weeks, he got one. A donor liver came from a young woman killed in a car crash, who gave the gift of life and hope to little Cole.
"She saved eight lives. And, this girl is my hero forever and will be. And, Cole is going to know that," Princehorn said.
With a new liver, unfortunately, came new complications. And, another major blow to Cole’s prognosis. "After transplant, there is a cancer you can contract that is born of the Epstein Barr virus," Princehorn explained. "It manifests itself in a kind of lymphoma."
Cole was diagnosed with cancer in his lymph nodes, liver and intestines. He immediately went on chemotherapy. His parents spent countless days at CHOP. Princehorn’s St. Joe Prep lacrosse team was coming together for Cole.
"He’s been through a lot more than a lot of these kids out here. A lot more than me," junior Cole Yocum said.
This season, the team is wearing CP stickers on their helmets in honor of "Cole’s Goals," a foundation to raise money for CHOP’s Pediatric Liver Center.
Senior Anthony Laber stated, "Every time he tells us a story, it makes us play harder for him."
"It’s definitely an inspiration for us as he’s fighting, but he’s fighting for his life out here," sophomore Nick Cunningham added.
They call lacrosse the medicine game. And, for this coach, the game was the best kind of medicine. In more ways than one, Cole received good news.
"A few weeks ago, we got the news he’s cancer free. You are so used to getting bad news that you finally get good news and it’s unbelievable!" Princehorn exclaimed.
Cole is on the road to recovery. And, for Coach, the idea of facing adversity is a daily message. "This situation with Cole has allowed me to teach them more about perspective and, at times, it’s been the students actually teaching the teacher. I am happy to be their coach and, more importantly, be part of their lives."