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MSU tennis player returns to the court after almost fatal ulcerative colitis complications

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Posted at 3:58 PM, Mar 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-23 15:58:54-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — Jack Winkler, a student at Michigan State University, has had a different college experience than his fellow Spartans.

During Winkler’s junior year of college, he was admitted to Beaumont Royal Oak, where according to the hospital, battled infections, severe pain, pneumonia and high blood pressure.

Beaumont writes that Winkler was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis during his freshman year of college.

“He was so weak, and the pain was excruciating. The bells and alarms were going off constantly,” said Jack’s mom, Kelly Winkler. “I was so scared. He had a fever and pneumonia, and everything started to fail. I asked our pastor to come and anoint him.”

Jack Winkler with his mom Kelly at a MSU football game. - Photo courtesy of Beaumont

According to officials at Beaumont, Winkler spent 47 days at their Royal Oak location.

Doctor Claire Peeples, a colon and rectal surgeon of Beaumont Hospital, says if they did not operate immediately on Winkler, his colon would have spilled into his body and would be fatal.

Winkler and his family had to decide if a J-pouch was the right decision.

“There’s a lot to get used to with having a J-pouch,” Dr. Peeples explained. “You have to hold liquid stool and there’s a constant sense of urgency. Activity increases the sensation. You have to learn when to go to the bathroom and when not to. It wakes you up in the middle of the night, which makes it hard to ever get good sleep.”

Jack at Beaumont Royal Oak Hospital - Photo courtesy of Beaumont

Jack has come a long way post his surgery and J-pouch construction. In the fall of 2021, he was able to hit the tennis court again for his senior year.

Below is a video from Michigan State University athletics:

“After all the setbacks and what this disease did to his body, it really is shocking to see how far he’s come,” Michigan State University Head Tennis Coach Gene Orlando said in a statement. “I don’t think he’d be here without having faith in his teammates and their faith in him.”

According to Beaumont, the student-athlete adopted a diet similar to NFL quarterback Tom Brady. Winkler eats 10% lean protein, rice, vegetables and potatoes.

Photo courtesy of Beaumont

Winkler won his first individual match in September for Michigan State University.

“I’m much more grateful now for things I might have taken for granted,” Winkler said. “I’m playing better than I ever thought I could play.”