BUFORD, Ga. (WANF/Gray News) – High school senior Nathaniel Olofintuyi, better known as Tuyi, just spent months recovering from a liver transplant, and on Friday night at his senior night football game, he caught a touchdown after being cleared to play again just days before, WANF reports.
His mom, coaches and teammates call his play and life a miracle. His mother, Sophia Jackson, said she could only think one thing when she saw the play.
“God is good because [it’s] a miracle. A total miracle,” Jackson said. “I just started crying. I was overwhelmed with joy that he had the opportunity to do something that he always wanted to do. He did not want to spend his senior year in a hospital bed.”
In a video, you can see Buford High School quarterback Dayton Raiola throw the ball to Tuyi. The touchdown helped Buford beat Central Gwinnett 62-0.
“I’m glad my first varsity touchdown actually meant something to the person that actually caught it. You know, he conquered life. And my first touchdown went to him, I’m going to remember that forever,” Dayton said.
The story behind the catch and celebration is a result of Tuyi’s journey leading up to that moment.
“I mean, considering like six months ago I couldn’t even walk, let alone brush my teeth by myself or go to the bathroom by myself and it’s just a miracle to see the long journey, the six-month journey I came. It doesn’t seem real,” he said.
On March 14, the 17-year-old went to eat with his two friends on his birthday. He woke up the next morning sick to his stomach and vomiting. He went to the emergency room on March 24 and was sent to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta with acute liver failure.
“They looked me in my eyes and said, ‘He is dying and if he doesn’t have a liver transplant, he may not live,’” Jackson said. “So, those words played in my head and I told my son, and I said, ‘Look, you will live and not die.’”
Jackson said Tuyi was dying before their eyes. She said his autopsy of the liver was 90% to 95% necrotic tissue.
Tuyi was placed on a transplant list by March 30. The next day, the unthinkable happened.
“The next morning, he had a match. He had a liver transplant match. That’s a miracle, and the physicians, they said they’ve never had a match so quickly, ever,” Jackson said.
Jackson said Tuyi went into surgery on March 31 for 12 hours. On April 1, the surgery was completed and Tuyi started rehab around July. Last Monday, he was cleared to finally play again, proving that no matter what life throws your way, you can always win if you believe.
“I give all glory to God. Long journey. Like I couldn’t have done it without him,” Tuyi said. “I remember, right before my surgery, before I knew I was getting a liver it was hard. Two weeks of my body just turning against me, and I remember going down to get some sunlight, my brother wheeled me down to the garden and told me, ‘God gives his toughest battles to his toughest soldiers.’ And that just stuck with me every day, that I went to PT,” he said.
Now, Tuyi encourages everyone to keep fighting whatever battles they are fighting.
“Like I know, at times it’s tough. Like in the moment it’s tough like I’m telling you, it’s going to be tough. It’s not easy but I’m telling you there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “I hope my story can be an inspiration to all who went through what I went through, a devastating surgery or anything like that, and I just pray that my miracle can shine light to the world and bring light to the world.”
Jackson said they have not been able to meet the liver donor, but said they hope to do so soon. She said Tuyi is under continuous medical treatment and will be under doctor’s care for a year. He will also be on anti-rejection medicine for life.
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