|THE KEENE STATE COLLEGE MAGAZINE FOR ALUMNI AND FRIENDS||VOLUME XXIV NUMBER 2 WINTER 2008|
John Napolitano's Unforgettable Gift
You know that nice young man who hangs out in the Sports Information office? Here's how he spent his winter break.
Last year was difficult for the family. In the spring, Nancy was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disorder. Although there are medications for it, there are no cures. To make matters worse, Nancy was born with just one kidney and her medications were hard on it.
When Nancy, 59, started on medication in July, family members were tested to find a match in case Nancy needed a donor kidney. John and his brother both matched, although John's kidneys were determined to be a better size for Nancy. "My brother and I talked about it," John said. "As the older brother, he felt he should do it. He wasn't happy with the situation. When he heard I was the better match, he said, ‘Don't do this because you have to; do this because you want to.'"
John wanted to. "This is my mother and I love her very dearly," said John. Because he was much younger than his siblings, John had been raised like an only child. He attended Classical High School in Providence, where he made a name for himself as captain of the Classical High football and track and field teams. On the track team, he threw both the hammer and the weight and received a scholarship for his dedication and sportsmanship.
It's the same traits that have marked his throwing career at Keene State.
"John's level of dedication is remarkable," said Darcy Wilson, the Owls' throwing coach. "He's a gentleman and a leader, someone whom younger members of the team look up to." In the classroom, John is pursuing a career in journalism. He has written for the Equinox and has worked in the Sports Information office the past four years.
The plan in the Napolitano family was that John would complete his Owl track career and donate a kidney to his mother after graduation. But a failing kidney has its own timetable. At 4 a.m. on New Year's Eve, John and his mother were wheeled into surgery at Brown Hospital. Still groggy, John finally got to see his mother around noon. The doctor assured them that everything had gone well.
Words between son and mother were few, but emotional. "I hadn't seen a smile on her face like that in a long time," said John. "It made it worth it. It really did."
"I am very grateful that John has sacrificed so much for me," his mother said recently. "I would like to think that he has a lot of me in him, and I know I would do the same for him any day."
John has resumed his classes and even competed in a few meets. The strong-willed senior, 19 pounds lighter, mustered enough strength to win the 35-pound weight throw at the Wesleyan Invitational, receiving LEC honors for his performance.
John says the prognosis for his mother is very good. "Family is the most important thing in my life," said John. "Without family and friends, we wouldn't have been able to get through it as smoothly as we did."
Quick to deflect accolades, John says his reward will come this spring when his mother comes up to Keene to see him walk across the stage and receive his degree.