Da Boot Sports
By: Terrill J. Weil
First, before you start reading this article I want everyone to know how close this story is to my heart. I've known Jai Eugene Sr. since he was seven years old. A little kid who I helped coach in little league football for four years and got to witness how blessed he was with a special athletic talent. I love this young man like a son.
I also suffer from high blood pressure and have been diagnosed with kidney disease. It's a battle and it's only a matter of time until I may face the same challenges on the dangerous level as Mr. Eugene.
Please pray for this wonderful young man, that he'll continue to recover and live a long and successful healthy life.
This Fighter Keeps on Fighting
This Fighter Keeps on Fighting
By: Julia Palin
Most athletes say winning a national championship was their most life-changing experience. Not for Jai Eugene. And it may not be close.
Eugene, a native of St. Rose, La., played defensive back for LSU for five seasons. Coming out of Destrehan High School in 2006, also home of NFL wide receiver Justin Jefferson, Eugene was labeled the No. 1 skill athlete in the state. Invited to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, he was ranked in the top 10 of all defensive backs in the nation, and also ranked as the 16th best prospect overall by ESPN.
Throughout his career at LSU, Eugene played in 51 games with 12 starts. He recorded 93 tackles, 1.5 for loss, with
one interception and five pass breakups.
“It was the best five years of my life,” Eugene said about his time at the university. “I met some great people, and had some great teammates that I’m still in touch with to this day. Those bonds and relationships will never be broken. It was like family over there.”
During his time as a Tiger, Eugene also built strong relationships with the athletics staff, specifically voicing his appreciation for current Senior Associate Athletics Director for Health & Wellness, Shelly Mullenix.
“I commend Shelly because she was like a mom, when my mom wasn’t there,” Eugene recalled. “She was like a team mom. I thank Shelly a lot; she’s done so much for me to this day.”
Eugene quickly called on Mullenix when he first learned of his diagnosis. About five years ago, doctors discovered that Eugene had high blood pressure. Mullenix and former LSU Director of Athletic Training, Jack Marucci, declined any history of high blood pressure while he was a student-athlete.
After one and a half years of ineffective medication for the high blood pressure, Eugene’s kidneys failed. He and his son, Jai Jr., were in California for a Nike Football event. After getting something to eat, Eugene recalls feeling like his stomach was shutting down, and it was something he had never experienced before.
“My son was scared,” Eugene said. “He basically had to babysit me the whole time we were out there, and go out and perform at football camp. I know it was hard on him.”
In insurmountable amounts of pain, Eugene hung on until he returned to New Orleans to be admitted to the hospital. He knew he would be there for a while, and did not want his family to suffer the financial penalty of staying in California for an extended period of time.
As soon as he stepped off the plane, the New Orleans hospital gave him the diagnosis: kidney failure.
“In college, I felt like I was invincible,” Eugene explained. “Coming out of that environment, I still thought my body could do anything: eat bad, not get as much rest. When the diagnosis hit me, it was a life-changing experience for me. I don’t wish this on anyone.”
Despite the tremendous pivot Eugene’s life has taken, he credits the doctors and nurses for making the transition to this new lifestyle as smooth as possible. When Hurricane Ida hit in August 2021, nurses worked hard to ensure Eugene was relocated to hospitals that could continue his treatment.
Currently, Eugene undergoes dialysis three days per week for four and a half hours. Outside of the dialysis treatments, he remains active and closely watches his nutrition intake. Eugene is newly on the kidney transplant list, awaiting a matched, donated kidney. Jai hopes that his Tiger family or people they know would be willing to consider the gist of live organ donation.
His transplant coordinator from Ochsner New Orleans is Lorie Bourgeois. Eugene coaches at his high school alma mater, along with head coach Marcus Scott.
“I have a very close bond with him because he also needs a kidney transplant,” Eugene said. “We motivate each other to try to get healthy, and push each other to overcome the situation that we’re in.”
In order to move up the transplant list, the most ideal scenario is to have a family member that is a match. One can determine whether or not they are a match through various medical testing performed by qualified doctors.
If a donor does not have any other diseases to put them at risk for kidney failure or other health complications, the donator can live a perfectly normal life with only one kidney. Doctors will test both kidneys to ensure they are normal, and that the one remaining kidney will be able to sustain the donator. In fact, some individuals are born with only one kidney, and never know it.
Donors who are living with only one kidney can still remain as active as they desire. Dr. James Morris, who has served as a specialist in urology for LSU Athletics, says even high-level football players succeed in their career with one kidney.
Those with diabetes or other pre-existing health conditions are at higher risk for kidney disease. Continuing to monitor your blood pressure, eating habits and exercise routine can help decrease your risk of developing kidney disease.
Eugene resides in St. Rose, La., and has two children: Jai Jr., 17, and Jailon, 11.