Westhill’s football team is in the midst of another tough season. The Vikings stand at 2-6, ensured of another losing season, the program’s second straight. Luckily, they have an everpresent reminder that what happens on the field is secondary to life off it.
The Vikings can thank teammate Aaron Pettiford for that deeper life lesson. It’s not because Pettiford is a quintessential mighty mouse on the football field, 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds of coiled, trained muscle. He serves as the Vikings’ featured back, shifty and determined, all the while battling a severe condition known as focal glomerulosclerosis, a kidney disease that damages the blood vessels inside the kidneys that filters blood. According to the Stamford Advocate, it can leave Pettiford feeling weak, exhuasted or outright sick, as he was during an early season game against Bridgeport Central, when Pettiford vomited numerous times on the Westhill bench.
There is only one potential cure for Pettiford’s condition: a kidney transplant. He is on a waiting list at Yale-New Haven Hospital, but until then he isn’t willing to stop playing football or basketball, just as he had refused to disclose the nature or severity of his illness to any teammates or coaches, as he didn’t want them to be distracted by or worried about him.
“He would take a break during a drill, or stop and take a rest, and had me often questioning his commitment and desire to play this game,” Westhill football coach Frank Marcucio told the Advocate. “Then he said to me that he needed a kidney transplant and I guess I got my answer. Little did I know that he has been quietly battling this illness and the toll it was having on his body.
“I think football and basketball both help take his mind off of it. He is a tough kid, he really is. He wants to be our workhorse and he is a shifty little running back.”