- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Like many fans, Jack Salmond’s heart races when he thinks about Notre Dame football - about the blue and gold uniforms, the Golden Dome, Notre Dame Stadium, Touchdown Jesus.

Unfortunately, that same heart is failing the 17-year-old.

Salmond was born with multiple heart defects, resulting in three open heart surgeries before the age of four and an early stroke.

He later developed protein-losing enteropathy, an abnormal loss of protein in the digestive tract, as a result of those surgeries.

“It basically is the body refuses to absorb proteins,” his mother, Patty Salmond, said. “So he has a lot of digestive problems.”

He also has to be on oxygen for about two-thirds of the day, she said, limiting his mobility and preventing him from playing competitive sports.

Ultimately, the high school junior from South Jordan, Utah, by way of Seattle, Wash., will need a heart transplant.

Jack, for his part, is looking forward to the procedure.

“Oh yeah, I really want it,” he said.

His mother, understandably, has concerns.

“Transplant is not a cure-all,” she said. “You’re changing one set of circumstances for another set of circumstances.

“Some kids do well - some kids do very well,” she said. “But there are some that don’t.”

When it all becomes too much, Jack takes refuge in Notre Dame Football, a passion he picked up from his brother-in-law, a former Notre Dame law student.

“Everybody needs something to go to when things are really hard, and Notre Dame Football has been that thing for him,” Patty Salmond said.

Courtesy of Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana, Jack took refuge inside Notre Dame Stadium Saturday, where he watched Notre Dame beat the Navy Midshipmen 41-24.

It was his second time on campus but his first game.

“They always try to get the Make-A-Wish kids have a backup plan, and he could not come up with anything else on the entire planet that he wanted to do besides go to Notre Dame,” Patty Salmond said.

“I’ve always wanted to come to Notre Dame . that’s my team,” said Jack.

According to Doug Kelly, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana, Jack is not alone in his love for the Fighting Irish.

“An experience with the Notre Dame football team is one of our most popular local sports-themed wishes, partially because of the bravery and fighting spirit kids are able to share with the players,” Kelly said.

Jack arrived in South Bend on Wednesday accompanied by his parents, Patty and Nyles Salmond, and two older sisters.

He toured the football facilities with former Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus, attended practice, and joined coach Brian Kelly for his weekly radio show on Thursday.

“It was fantastic,” he said of meeting Kelly. “When I walked in I was like, ‘Am I really meeting him? Is this real?’ It was a good experience.”

He attended practice again on Friday, followed by team mass and the Friday night pep rally at Purcell Pavilion

On Saturday, he walked with the team across campus to the stadium, stood on the sidelines during warmups and then watched the game from the stands.

“It’s been really wonderful. The staff has been just incredible in helping Jack have a great experience,” Patty Salmond said.

“The football players have been very friendly and kind,” she said, “and he had the kickers giving him pointers on kicking.”

“Team practice is a lot of fun,” said Jack. “I got to hang out with a lot of the guys and talk to them, kick some field goals.”

Unfortunately, even a few field goals takes a lot out of the 17-year-old.

“He goes out and kicks the ball about five minutes and that’s about all he can do,” Patty Salmond said. “But he’s just a trooper, he just adjusts for whatever.”

Said Jack, impossibly upbeat, “It’s challenging, but I keep on going. I don’t give up.”

___

Source: South Bend Tribune, https://bit.ly/1LFFQQn


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