NAPLES -- A routine sports physical back in August changed 14-year-old Dylon Jacob's life -- and likely saved it.
Doctors noticed the Naples middle schooler had extremely high blood pressure and suggested his mother, Lindsey Jacobs, have him checked out. But Jacobs felt the problem couldn't wait. She rushed him to the hospital that day.
Doctors would later determine the eighth grade youth football player had Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis. Kidney disease.
"He had no symptoms. None," Jacobs said. "Thank God he had that sports physical."
The following months would be filled with doctors visits and close calls, trips to Miami twice a week for dialysis treatment and consuming worry for Jacobs, who stopped working to care for her son full-time. When doctors determined Dylon would need a new kidney to survive, Jacobs, 32, volunteered.
All her thoughts about him
"I was just mainly scared for him," Jacobs said. "What if my kidney wasn't good enough? What if he rejected it? All my thoughts were about him, not myself. The mom adrenaline just kicks in and you do whatever it takes."
On Jan. 28, mother and son went under the knife together. Now, they're recovering together in a Miami hotel where they have to stay so they're in proximity to the hospital where they continue to have daily blood work.
"I haven't been scared myself," Jacobs said. "I'm in pain but it's worth it."
Life has been a whirlwind since the Jacobs family first learned Dylon had kidney disease.
"It was scary finding out," Dylon said. "I was scared I would not play football again."
Eventually, doctors suggested transplanting a kidney from a cadaver. Jacobs learned that a live donor's organ usually lasts longer and she pushed her doctors for that option. They told her family donors are usually the best bet.
"My other two boys are 3 and 5, they're too little," said Jacobs, a single mother. "So that day I went and got tested. It matched. It worked."
The news was a relief but it also meant another hurdle.
"I was excited that I would not have to go to dialysis anymore," Dylon said. "But was kind of weird that I would have a girl's kidney. Also I became more nervous because the actual surgery was coming."
The surgery took place Jan. 28. Both Jacobs and Dylon were kept in a holding room together at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami before surgery and taken back for the procedure at the same time.
"He was strong, I think, for me and I was strong for him," Jacobs said. "But as soon as they wheeled us away from each other I just started crying. It was happiness and painfulness and fear. Just a million things running through my mind."
But all went well and Dylon said he is grateful to his mother for her gift.
"I feel a lot better already. But I'm very bored," Dylon said. "I cannot go out in public places for at least three months because I cannot get sick. It gets frustrating because I feel better and want to go do thing but I cannot."
Money is tight and Jacobs won't be able to work again until Dylon is considered recovered. That could take up to six months.
Jacobs said friends raised $20,000 back in October to pay for trips to Miami while she was out of work. As a single mother of three, she said the money was a blessing but it's nearly gone now.
A GoFundMe account started by friends last year has about $500 left. The hotel they're staying at costs $4,000 a month.
Family grateful for help
Still, the family is grateful to the community for what they've done to help. Teammates from the Golden Gate Tigers Youth Football had fundraising events and started the hashtag (hash)DylonStrong to encourage his recovery.
"My friends and family have been so supportive through this," Dylon said. "People are always reaching out to do nice things for me."
Jacobs said she wants parents to be aware of the kinds of undetected health problems their children may have. Had her son not needed that routine sports physical, she worries his problems might have gone unnoticed until it was too late to help him.
"If you ask your pediatricians to draw labs, they will," she said. "Do it once a year because things can be caught early one. If they would have caught the protein in his urine early on, he could have been put on medications and it would have never gotten to this point."
The days are slow now and Jacobs and Dylon have only each other as company. They spend each morning getting routine blood work done at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami then return to their hotel to while away the afternoons. Dylon was receiving at-home tutoring while on dialysis but hasn't attended classes since the transplant. It's tough for a kid who is used to being active.
"That's the hardest part because he's been playing ball since he was 7," Jacobs said. "Our whole lives are dedicated to football."
Despite his mother's concerns that a contact sport could damage his donated organ, Dylon said he still hopes to play football again one day.
"Yes I will definitely play sports again," he said. "Sports are my life and nothing is going to stop me."