Just six months ago, College of the Ozarks cross country member Jeremy Wood (West Plains, Mo.) underwent surgery. The surgery would not benefit him physically but was instead entered into with the goal of saving the life of his aunt, who was in desperate need of a liver transplant.
While it was a difficult decision to make, Wood’s character did not falter, nor did he hesitate to step up when he found out he was a match. According to Jeremy, his coach, Clint Woods, was especially helpful in walking through the decision-making process with him.
Surgery for the donation was scheduled in Memphis to remove a portion of Wood’s liver during Wood’s spring break this past March, and the surgery was accomplished with great success. Wood stated, “It helped to know my team was thinking about me and praying for me throughout the entire process. They really are more like family to me—not just a team.”
The hard work for Jeremy began following the surgery. He returned to finish out the semester at school, and his body slowly began to heal. Wood noted that his professors at the college were very understanding and helpful in allowing him to make up missed work. A bigger challenge for Wood was not being permitted to do any strenuous activity and being limited to lifting no more than 10 pounds for the first six weeks—difficult restrictions for an athlete who loves to run.
With steady determination and discipline, Wood began to work out in an effort to return to his prior level of health. His goal was to be prepared for the fall season so he could compete in collegiate meets with his team. Wood noted, “At the start of the season, I wasn't’t anywhere close to the front of the pack like I was last season, and I fell behind on longer runs, but my teammates always encouraged me. Coach Woods helped me regain my confidence as the season went on. He always believed in me and pushed me to not make excuses for myself.”
Jeremy, a junior, has run in all of his team’s races this season, steadily improving his time. He closed out the season just 30 seconds behind his best posted time from 2016. While he did not qualify to run in the national championship with three of his teammates, he will certainly be cheering them on from afar, and he hopes to qualify himself next season.
Looking back, Wood says, “It has been a great experience. My recovery has gone better than expected, and seeing my aunt active and energetic again makes the hard times well worth it.”
Note: Following release of this article, Bobby Oler came out to College of the Ozarks to meet Jeremy. Here is a link to the KY3 story: