Cave Spring Sophomore Slow to Recover from Meningitis

Roanoke Co., VA - Last year hundreds of people fell victim to a tainted steroid injection which led to one of the worst outbreaks of fungal meningitis this country has ever seen.

And even though the worst is long over, the effects continue to plague most of those victims like Cave Spring sophomore Zac Foutz.

For Foutz, and many others like him, the road to recovery has been long and painful with a lot of road still to cover.

Foutz started his sophomore year at Cave Spring High School there were high expectations for this versatile young athlete. He was already thinking about his college potential.

But early in the school year, just weeks before his 16th birthday, Foutz received a steroid injection that changed his life.

"I always thought it was for a reason. Granted, I haven't seen that reason yet why this all happened to me but it will soon present itself and when it does I'm sure it's going to make me a better person in life," said Foutz.

Now three months later and Foutz is still fighting that battle. A journey that has been painful in many ways.

The physical pain; the pain of watching his teammates go on without him. The pain of not knowing... and the pain this has caused his family.

"No, he's not the kid he was but we are praying he will get there eventually," said Zac's father, Ben.

It's been especially tough for Zac's father, Ben.

For the one time teacher, and coach of the Cave Spring High School football team, seeing his son struggle where he should be excelling, has been difficult.

"It's been hard for us to watch it because we know what kind of competitor he is," said Ben Foutz.

"We got him back into school and the athletic part hasn't come as quick as we would all probably like, but, it's been more difficult for us to watch him go through it than to just watch it," he added.

After two months off of school, Zac has returned and made the honor roll this past semester. The medicine he'd been taking that gave him painful shin splints and caused him to lose his hair, is gone.

What isn't gone is thought of what could have been... and the hope of what will be. A return to the things this once healthy teenager spends his nights dreaming about. A question many people have asked him, "Are you going to play football this year?"

"I am. I am. I don't think I'm going to stop until my body is run into the ground," said Foutz.

Zac's father says there are no guarantees Zac will ever play sports, let alone football, again. His immune system is still too weak and he has issues with his vision. Something, as Zac said, hopes will not be the case come August as the football season begins again. However Zac still has three spinal taps and two MRI's ahead of him before he can be cleared to play again.