Inspirational swimmer Noah James named Indiana Spirit of Sport Award winner | People
Double lung transplant patient Noah James of Boonville High School, has been nominated by the Indiana High School Athletic Association for the National High School Spirit of Sport Award, an honor sponsored annually by the Indianapolis-based National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
The award seeks to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics. James’ ability to overcome both the challenges of Asperger Syndrome and a life-threatening lung disease was chosen from 19 nominations from around the state.
A swimmer at BHS, Noah will be entered into regional competition with those nominees being considered for the national award by the NFHS. The overall national winner will be recognized at the NFHS Summer Meetings in Denver, CO in June.
James is a junior at BHS where he’s in his third year as a member of the Pioneers' swimming and diving team.
James has dealt with Asperger Syndrome, an Autistic Spectrum Disorder associated with difficulties in social interaction, dealing with change, and sometimes odd, eccentric or repetitive behaviors. He is breaking his disability stereotypes however by interacting with teammates and participating in both team and individual swimming events, something he began doing competitively at age six.
In December 2011, his next major challenge presented itself. What his family assumed was a bad case of bronchitis and pneumonia turned out to be something far more serious. His lung function fell daily to dangerous levels to where he needed to be put on oxygen, was put on homebound services for school and underwent a series of tests. Extensive evaluations over the next three months at three of the Midwest’s finest children’s hospitals resulted in a diagnosis of bronchiolitis obliteran, a rare, life-threatening disorder that causes inflammatory obstruction of the lung’s bronchioles. The obstruction leads to extensive scarring that blocks the airways, which leads to a dry cough, shortness of breath, wheezing and fatigue. Due to the extent of the disease, his only option became a double lung transplant.
He left his father, brother and sister behind in May 2012 and relocated with his mother to the Ronald McDonald House of St. Louis, MO to await his transplant. Finding a match though could take up to two years he was told. As luck would have it though, he only waited a few short weeks as a match was found and his double lung transplant took place on June 14.
He still had to undergo extensive physical therapy, meet with a series of doctors and therapists, receive infusion treatments and continues to follow a strict regimen of preventative and anti-rejection medications. Knowing that Asperger’s Syndrome makes dealing with change difficult enough, his courage through it all is even more impressive.
Last October, just four months after his double lung transplant, Noah remarkably returned to school, the swim team, his teammates and the water he cherishes.
Amy Ulrey, Boonville High School counselor, who nominated James for the Spirit of Sport Award, recalls a conversation she had with him following his return.
“After his first week, I asked him how it felt to be back in the pool.”
“My lungs did not come from a swimmer,” James replied emphatically.
“To see him walk the halls of our high school, with his letterman’s jacket on, truly is inspiring,” Ulrey wrote. “To see him leave the pool deck, enter the water and take that first stroke is nothing less than miraculous!”
Noah James will be honored at half time of the varsity game on February 15. North Posey's athletic director, Virgil Ferguson, a recent liver transplant recipient, will also be honored at the Donor Awareness Game.
Boonville welcomes home teen who underwent double lung transplant (September 2012)