As the Battle Against Cystic Fibrosis Football Classic gets set to kick off at Don Drumm Stadium at 7 tonight, a whole lot of impressionable younsters - boys and girls - are expected to be in attendance.
Who knows, maybe someday, they may even be a part of this very worthwhile event.
The thing is, good health can never ever be taken for granted.
With that in mind, I'd like to share the true story of a young boy, who was tested for cystic fibrosis. That he tested negative was a great relief to his family.
But that did not end his health ordeal.
Ultimately, at a tender age, one thing was constant: He wanted to live a life.
Without any further ado, here goes:
Born four weeks premature, the little boy weighed 5 pounds, 9 ounces.
His mother suffered a cold before the birth, and the doctor could prescribe no medication to relieve the coughing because of the pregnancy.
When the little boy was three weeks old, the pediatrician administered liquid penicillin to help clear up the excess mucus.
Runny nose and all, the baby had a voracious appetite, and was nursed every three hours, night and day.
He gained weight and was happy - and the years went by quickly.
During his 10th summer, he contracted pneumonia and had a temperature of 105 degrees. After being treated with antibiotics at home, he recovered.
But...that fall and winter, he kept running a fever and was diagnosed with walking pneumonia.
About a month or so after his 11th birthday, he was admitted to the hospital with the goal of clearing up the condition once and for all.
Early on, he underwent several tests, and a bronchoscopy was performed on him.
Cystic fibrosis was ruled out, but...ultimately, surgery was recommended after studies revealed bronchiectasis.
As he was wheeled into the operating room in late April, he waved to his mother.
A right middle lobectomy was done with the surgery lasting 45 minutes.
Because of his youth, none of the ribs, which were pliable, had to be cut to get to the lung.
The pathological specimen revealed bronchiectasiss, atelectasis and emphysema, and focal organizing pneumonia.
These were expected findings.
The incision itself was sewed like a neat seam and went half way around his body. It was visible approximately 1-1/2 inches below the right nipple and extended below the right armpit to the center of the back, about 16 horizontal inches in length.
Five minutes after the anesthesia wore off, he awoke with much discomfort in the recovery room.
The father nearly fainted when he saw his son, and had to exit the room briefly to get his bearings.
His mother toughed it out, though, and did not leave her young son's side not even for a minute.
In the days that followed, the boy had to blow into a bottle container and cough up whatever. It was a difficult, uncomfortable task, but eventually he got the hang of it.
After the surgery, he spent another week in the hospital.
During his nearly four-week stay, he made several friends. There was pretty Gail, a six-year-old girl, who hadn't left the hospital since birth. She had an inoperable, exposed tumor on her spine.
There was Brian, who had had polio at a young age. He was having braces adjusted to his legs.
There was Jamie, a pretty 10-year-old with rheumatoid arthritis.
Tim, who had muscular dystrophy, was his first roommate.
There were the curly, blonde-haired twins, age 4, who had cerebral palsy.
And, then there was 10-year-old and best friend Kenny, an African-American with suspected sickle cell anemia.
In an adjoining room, there was Bonnie, who he never met, because she was too sick with leukemia to see visitors. Shortly before he was discharged from the hospital, she died, and his mother took it hard, bursting into tears in the arms of a nurse in the hallway.
In the aftermath....
The young boy journeyed to Florida for the first time with his grandparents, and had some episodes of hemoptysis or bleeding on the beach which were believed to be related to residual bronchiectasis.
As he got older, though, those episodes would disappear.
A few months after the surgery, his friend Kenny tried to visit him, but he unfortunately wasn't home at the time.
After the hospital, they would never see each other again.
Later, he would attend college, get married, and raise a family.
His father died of prostate cancer in the early eighties.
The doctor, who performed the surgery and essentially saved his life, died on Jan. 6, 2000 in Belfast, Me.
His beloved mother is in her 80s now, but still very energetic and active in the community.
She remembers every moment of those long-ago, trying days in the hospital.
And, so does he.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at firstname.lastname@example.org