Geneseo women’s basketball senior forward Lea Sobieraski recently received the Bounce Back award from the Chris Klug Foundation for organ transplant recipients who have led inspiring post-transplant lives. On March 2, 2013, Sobieraski was rushed into surgery as her life was in the hands of the doctors and surgeons. She was diagnosed with Wilson’s disease, a rare inherited disorder that causes too much copper to accumulate in the liver, brain and other vital organs.
“Prior to being diagnosed [with Wilson’s disease] I had never heard of it. Being a healthy collegiate athlete, I had never faced any injuries or serious illness, so this was definitely a shock,” she said. “I was very taken aback because I had realized my life was going to change—my life was on a hold. My life changed drastically, but I am a better person because of it. I now have a clear purpose in life and that is to use my story to spread awareness on the importance of organ donation.”
Forced to leave school as her condition deteriorated, all Sobieraski could do was play the unfortunate waiting game. Her condition became so debilitating that she was pushed to the top of the transplant waiting list. She was rushed into surgery and with a successful transplant, Sobieraski was ready to get back in the game.
“When I stood up after my transplant, the first thing I did was take a pretend jump shot,” she said.
From there, it was obvious there was no stopping her and what she would accomplish. Sobieraski is now an active advocate for organ transplants and has registered more than 50 students on campus to become donors. In addition, she was chosen as a commencement speaker for a local high school. Perhaps most importantly for Sobieraski, however, was that she was not only able to re-enroll at Geneseo, but she was also able to get back on the court for the women’s basketball team just months after her surgery.
“I knew it would be a lot of hard work and dedication, but I made a promise to myself I would do whatever it took to play the game I loved again,” Sobieraski said. “I never gave up on that goal. Playing basketball was my passion, it was what made me so happy.”
The Bounce Back award is presented to two transplant recipients. With over 80 nominations, the staff at CFK chose Sobieraski. As a result, she won a trip to Aspen, Colorado to attend the Aspen Summit for Life on Friday Dec. 4. More than deserving of the honor, Sobieraski was presented the award on Saturday Dec 5.
By using her second chance in life to not only give back and restart where she left off before the surgery, but also to evolve as a person, Sobieraski has proven herself as a role model and success story that most certainly won’t be soon forgotten.