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A tough ticket to Indy
Yuba City's Meyers attends Super Bowl
Cody Meyers had it all.
But there he was, lying on a hospital bed at UC Davis Medical Center waiting to receive a kidney — his father's.
His story is one of many, but he never thought the fight for his life would earn him a trip to the Super Bowl.
In October of 2010, Meyers was a 14-year-old trying to make a name for himself as a freshman at River Valley High.
An All-Star pitcher and catcher for Sutter Buttes Little League and a hard-hitting linebacker during his time with the River Valley Jr. Falcons youth football program, Meyers' athletic future was bright.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, life changed.
One afternoon, he started feeling sick. It was no big deal at first, but when his illness lingered on for three full weeks his family knew something was wrong.
"I was getting pale and anything I ate or drank I threw up," Meyers recalled. "Even the medicine, I threw up."
From the start, physicians were stumped and on three separate occasions his condition went misdiagnosed. Doctors thought it was either a bad case of food poisoning or a stomach flu. However, as Meyers' health continued to decline, his family took him in to have his blood checked.
He was tested on a Friday, and the very next day the phone rang.
Tests revealed that Meyers had Wegener's vasculitis, a very rare autoimmune disease that can affect many different organs and systems within the body. In this case, the disease was attacking Meyers' kidneys.
"It's a life-threatening illness and they told me you have to take him to the hospital right away," Cody's father, Mike, said. "They said his blood level was off the hook and it looks like he's going to lose his kidneys."
The news came as a complete shock to the Meyers family. After the diagnosis, Cody was hospitalized for 32 days at Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento, where he had to undergo dialysis three days a week.
News of Cody's plight quickly spread across the community and with it came an outpouring of support. Local youth football organizations passed a helmet around at games to collect money and coaches and players from various high schools came to visit him in the hospital.
Fundraising efforts soon followed. Raffles were held at local sporting events, T-shirts were made and sold with Meyers' No. 45 on it, along with bracelets that read "Do it for Cody." In all, the community raised an estimated $10,000 to help out with Cody's medical expenses.
"It's not about sports, it's about a kid who went through living hell, basically," Mike Meyers said. "It's a community thing, and people put in their time and money to help out. There's no words I have to thank them enough."
But despite a difficult regimen of medication and 31⁄2-hour dialysis sessions to cleanse his system, Meyers recovered enough to join the Falcons' freshman baseball team late last spring. He worked his dialysis sessions around his baseball games, though he had to play with a catheter in his chest cavity used to hook him up to the dialysis machine.
"You could tell he was exhausted," Mike said, "but he just wanted to be a part of the team."
But Cody wasn't out of the woods just yet.
He was in need of a kidney transplant, and by chance three members of his family were a match: Mike, Cody's mother, Monica, and his older brother, Darrick.
So, in July of last year Mike didn't hesitate — he give up one of his kidneys to save his son.
"It wasn't even a choice for me — it was a given," Mike said. "The doctors said it was unheard of to have three people be a match in the same family, but me being a dad, it was the right thing to do. It's not about sports, it's about life."
Fast forward to today's game.
During his 32-day stay at Sutter Memorial, Meyers was approached by social workers who gave the family some good news: the Make-A-Wish Foundation was offering him three wishes.
Cody's first wish was to attend the World Series, and when that came and went, he crossed his fingers. Sure enough, wish No. 2 came through — the Meyers were headed to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
"I was excited, but it didn't really hit me until I left," Cody said Saturday from Indianapolis. "I'm just excited to be here and to watch the game. It's something you may never get to do again."
The Make-A-Wish Foundation took care of everything for the trip to Indy. Airfare, hotel, rental car and five tickets to the big game — it was all paid for.
The Meyers family was picked up for the airport by limousine early Thursday morning and landed in Indianapolis at 4 p.m. that day. They attended a welcome reception dinner that evening, and on Friday they took a special tour of Lucas Oil Stadium, where they received a behind-the-scenes look at the facility and visited both teams' locker rooms.
The family enjoyed the NFL Experience at the Super Bowl Village, hung out with some of the NFL's elite and even received autographs from several current and former players.
Cody later appeared live on NFL Network's "Total Access" on Friday night where he took a football and showed off his moves against Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Lamar Woodley.
On Saturday, they spent an hour visiting with the New England Patriots cheerleaders, which Cody said has been the highlight of the trip so far.
At today's game, they will be seated near the 20-yard line behind the New York Giants' bench.
"This has all been unbelievable," Mike said. "It's a dream come true for Cody."
Still, Meyers has a long fight in front of him. He still takes more than 20 pills a day to stay healthy, and while he will play baseball for the Falcons' junior varsity team this spring, playing football again will not be in his future.
"They treat it like they would a cancer patient and his disease is in remission," Mike explained. "If the disease was still active, they wouldn't have done the transplant. He'll have the disease for the rest of his life. He takes the medication to keep it in remission."
Attending the Super Bowl will be a moment none of them will ever forget. And if Cody needs a reminder, all he has to do is look at the 8-inch scar on his abdomen.
"People say I'm lucky," he said, "but they don't know half the stuff I've gone through."