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Meidinger back in form, ready for post season...

A year ago at this time, Sam Meidinger was in a University of Minnesota hospital, recovering from a bone marrow transplant.

2/20/18 (Tue)

A year ago at this time, Sam Meidinger was in a University of Minnesota hospital, recovering from a bone marrow transplant.

A year and two days later, Meidinger, along with his peers, the Kenmare Honkers boys basketball team, are playing in the District 16 tournament.

He admits, he’s not at 100 percent, but the 6-5 junior has made remarkable progress when you consider where he’s been in his life’s journey.

Meidinger was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia, a rare disease that produces very few blood cells in the bone marrow.

He’s gone through blood transfusions, chemotherapy, he’s missed school, he’s had nutrition IVs and most importantly, according to him, he couldn’t be with his team.

So you can understand why when he says he’s not at 100 percent.

“I’m still improving beyond what I used to be,” Meidinger said. “Right now, I’d say 90 percent, but there’s lots of room for improvement.”

And he’s always chipping away at that. This young man strives to be a better basketball player and a better student each day.

That’s how Sam rolls. His mother Tami said 16 days after his bone marrow transplant, he was walking around in the hospital corridor, logging 10 laps, the equivalent of a mile, and even jogging a few steps.

“The second time he insisted on upping his game to 11 laps,” Tami Meidinger said. “Neither time is what I would call a leisurely stroll.”

He owes a lot of his recovery to his Honker teammates. When he was going through his hospital stay, Tami said the worst thing for him was being away from the team.

But since he’s been back, it’s as if he never left.

“My teammates are great,” Sam said. ‘I love being around them and I think they feel the same way.”

Psychologists often tell us the mind is often stronger than the body and Sam Meidinger is a testament to that.

When he started back in to basketball practice, however, he struggled. He wasn’t as strong as he wanted to be, but it didn’t take him long to adapt and overcome and now he’s out there scoring 5 to 8 points a game.

“The first week of practice was the worst,” Sam said. “It was hard to get back into it after doing basically nothing for so long. Getting back on the court was the best feeling. It felt great and still does, to play up to my potential.”

He admits he is drained at the end of a game, but he puts that into a unique perspective as well.

“That’s how it should be if you play hard,” he said. “Practices toward the end of the year get easier so that isn’t much of a toll on my body now.”

Sam says he feels good about himself and his team and both are ready to compete in the District 16 tournament beginning on Friday.

He played in Kenmare’s loss to Stanley as the regular season was winding down. It dropped Kenmare into the No. 2 position in the tournament. Still, he believes the Blue Jays are beatable and the team to knock them off will be the Kenmare Honkers.

Sam hopes the Honkers have successful district and regional tournaments and he would love nothing more than to go to the state Class B tournament. But he’s not making any predictions. He doesn’t want to jinx the team.

Regardless of when the basketball season ends, Sam will be joining the track team. He says he is looking forward to being able to run and compete. If his basketball conditioning is any indication of what his track season is going to be like, the spring sport will be as successful as his basketball season just past.

Ironically, his basketball coach is also his track coach. Kacy Keysor bent over backward last year to include Sam in as much as the team as he could while Sam was in Minnesota.

That was a strong motivator for Sam and that will continue, hopefully into the state track meet the last week of May.

“Coach has always been great,” Sam said. “He’s more than a coach now. He’s grown to be a great friend and even a father figure. He has always given me the most support and stuck with me through everything. I owe him a lot.”

Keysor sees his relationship with Sam in a little different light.

“Your positive attitude and fight is an inspiration to us all,” Keysor said. “You’ve always been part of this team.”

Sam’s family is also part of his team and has been through thick and thin; his parents, his brothers, his dog; they’ve all been motivation for him in times of great need.

And it’s his parents’ job to worry about him being in sports. In fact Tami told The Kenmare News in a 2016 interview that yes, she was worried, but he’s a kid and you have to let him be a kid.

“My parents have always been worried about me being in sports,” Sam said. “But since my transplant, I can now play with contact without any extra worries. It’s completely safe for me to play, other than your usual risks with playing contact sports.”

There’s no doubt Sam Meidinger has come a long way on this journey and he could be an inspiration to any other teen, or adult for that matter, who might face the same fate that he’s had to deal with and overcome.

His love of basketball most likely got him through his Aplastic Anemia and gradually back to normalcy.

It’s something positive, something pleasant and motivating that seems to take away the fright of needles, the smell of isopropyl alcohol and getting roused at all hours of the day and night when you just want to sleep.

Sam does have some advice for anyone who has to go through this as he did. It’s very simple really. But it’s that mind over matter that made the difference for this determined teen.

“The biggest thing I would recommend is to just stay positive,” he said. “There’s a bunch of negativity surrounding it, so being positive is essential. Another thing is to make the most of every moment. Life if really short and you can’t take anything for granted.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!