With his family huddled together near his hospital bed in Kansas City, Mo., Lawrence High wide receiver Jared Vinoverski listened to the radio broadcast of the LHS football game against Free State in October.
It wasn't supposed to be that way.
Vinoverski, a senior, was the Lions leading receiver, and it was his dream - his right - to be on the Haskell Stadium field that night. But an infection that ultimately led to a collapsed lung and the scare of his young life kept Vinoverski off the field.
"That was the real bummer there," Vinoverski said. "Not being able to play against Free State : it was tough. My family was there with me, and we listened to the game on the radio. I wanted so badly to be out there with my teammates."
He soon realized that would not happen again during the fall, so like many athletes faced with adversity, he found a way to overcome it.
"The whole time I was in the hospital (17 days during two different stints), I just kept asking the doctors, 'What about basketball?'" he said.
That question was answered just before winter break, when "Vino" checked into the Lions' Dec. 20 game. The opponent? Free State.
"Even though it was only for a couple of minutes, the first time I got back onto the court I enjoyed it a lot," Vinoverski said. "This has made me realize that in the snap of your fingers it can all be taken away. I don't take anything for granted anymore. I'm enjoying every second."
Vinoverski's illness came out of nowhere. One day at football practice he began to have trouble breathing. Doctors initially diagnosed him with mononucleosis, but realized that wasn't the problem when his mother, Lori Carson, was called to pick him up from another practice because the shortness of breath was accompanied by chest pains and difficulty standing.
"Just what every mother wants to hear," Carson said. "'Your son's having trouble breathing and he's having chest pains, come get him.' It was really terrifying."
That day, Vinoverski was rushed from Lawrence to Children's Mercy Hospital, in Kansas City, Mo., where he underwent surgery to remove an abscess from his lung. After a week, he was sent home. Days later he was back before finally heading home after nearly three weeks.
Teammates, coaches, friends and family came to visit. Anyone who followed LHS football this season can share in the family's comedic relief that came when teammates walked in on crutches, in wheelchairs or with something in a cast.
"The nurses joked that they were the walking wounded," Carson said. "We were truly overwhelmed by the support we received from the entire community of Lawrence, but especially the Lawrence High football family. It really helped us get through this."
Today, that support comes the way Vino is used to, from his friends in the bleachers.
Last Friday, he saw extensive action in the Lions' 72-64 victory over Olathe Northwest. It was a welcome sight for everyone involved.
"Before Christmas, there wasn't one day where he made it through an entire practice," LHS coach Chris Davis said. "Most people don't realize how bad of shape he was in. But to see him coming back, regaining his strength, competing and having fun with it again, it's just great."