For Xavier Pease, the training room at Billerica Memorial High School has become an oasis from the distraction consuming his life recently.
In the basement training room, he sits at his desk with music playing softly. His life is a whirlwind, but few know it.
Pease’s father has a genetic disorder called Alpha-1, which has caused myriad lung and breathing problems over the years.
On Oct. 9, Pease’s father went in for a double lung transplant. The in-depth procedure went off with few complications, Pease said, but his father wasn’t out of the woods.
While on a machine to help his heart during the transplant recovery, he suffered a stroke. Since then, Pease said his father has come off all machines and his lungs are functioning well, while rehab for the stroke continues.
Despite his father’s condition, the 24-year-old Pease has been at work nearly every day, taping ankles and preparing the school’s athletes.
“It’s just been a little stressful. I feel like we have a close-knit family and that’s been great,” he said. “It’s been good to come in here; it’s a nice distraction for me.”
Few at the school knew about his father’s condition, as Pease said it was just easier not to recount the long story.
So, when Athletic Director Dave Lezenski told Pease to stick around for the end of the football playoff game Oct. 28, Pease thought nothing of it.
“I walked over and Coach (Duane) Sigsbury was giving his normal postgame speech. Then, out of nowhere, they surprised me with the game ball and wanted to dedicate the game to me. It was incredible, because as an athletic trainer you’re here every day and you don’t necessarily get the recognition. It was amazing with that recognition and support for my dad,” Pease said.
While Pease was at the game, his family saw the events unfold on Twitter. A picture of Pease with the game ball and football captains circulated the Internet, before landing in a hospital room at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“Everybody was so grateful and teared up and everything,” Pease said. “My dad is in isolation and I went in to see him the next day and he wanted his football. I said, ‘They’re not gonna let me bring that in here.’”
Billerica football captain Jacob Carlson said he heard about Pease’s father’s condition on the field that night.
“I thought it was tragic and horrible to hear about one of the members of the team,” he said. “We knew he was going through a rough time and we felt that giving him the game ball would show that we support him.”
Although he doesn’t put on a helmet and shoulder pads, Carlson said Pease is an integral part of the team.
“Xavier is a great guy; whenever anybody needs him, he’s there,” he said.
Pease, a Worthington native, has been with Billerica High School for about a year as the athletic trainer. He has become an instant mainstay in the school’s athletic department, according to Lezenski.
“He’s a dynamite athletic trainer and more importantly, he’s a great kid. It didn’t take Xavier long to prove his worth when he came here a year ago, and that’s a good thing,” he said.
For Lezenski, the game ball was a worthy tribute to what he called “the best athletic trainer in the state.”
“We all have bad and troublesome days and times when we need a pick-me-up, and that’s what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to help people,” he said. “He’ll pay it forward, there is no doubt about it.”