There’s never been a question when it comes to Marina Lombardi’s ability as a catcher for the Livingston High School softball team. ‘Silver Charm’ has been behind the plate now for four years, putting together an but incredibly consistent softball career.
Perhaps it was her head coach, Jason Daily, who summed up Lombardi’s attributes best.
“She’s not only a tremendous player, but as nice a person as you’ll ever meet,” Daily said of the senior who will attend Montclair State this fall.
And that gentle spirit, which defines a compassionate young woman, is shining even more, as Marina attempts to help a friend, who is battling an illness.
Sara Gebert is a 19-year-old girl from Pittstown, New Jersey. Over the past two years, the competitive softball pitcher had shed 30 pounds, and was forced to drop out of Fairleigh Dickinson University because she was often too sick to get out of bed.
Sara was diagnosed with Chronic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction (CIPO) and Gastroparesis. These conditions are so severe that she is considered to be in intestinal failure. She is fed overnight straight into her heart with Total Parenteral Nutriton (IV nutrition). She has to drain her stomach 24/7 because her body is unable to contain its own digestive contents.
There are only about 150 cases diagnosed a year worldwide and there is no cure. Symptoms can be managed, but this usually requires very invasive surgeries and expensive medications that often are not covered by insurance. Sara lives every day with severe pain and constant nausea. She has good days and bad days.
Sometimes she can behave like a normal 19 year old girl, and other times she is so sick she can’t even get out of bed. CIPO is a complex and rare disease that gets minimal funding and little awareness. Sara has set out to form ‘Sara’s Army’, a nonprofit organization created to raise awareness and funding for her own medical treatments as well as research towards a cure for this disease.
Through the help of Lisa and Ally Royce, a video of Sara’s story at our first was shared at Livingston High’s first softball parent meeting last fall.
Marina subsequently befriended Sara through her website and talked about softball, and how the Lancers would like to build awareness on CIPO and support Sara’s Army.
After several emails back and forth, Sara informed Marina that she’s been in and out of the hospital but is now home and getting back on her feet. She was also thankful and appreciative for the Lancers support and hoped to come to one of Livingston’s games.
Marina spoke to Coach Daily, and in an effort to raise awareness of the little-known disease, the Livingston softball team is selling baked goods, snacks, drinks and wristbands this Friday, May 1, when the Lancers play Montclair , with all proceeds going to Sara’s Army.
“We’re hoping Sara will throw out the first pitch on Friday,” said Lombardi. “We should all be aware that at any time, things can change in our lives. What Sara is battling is very rare, and awareness is necessary to help those afflicted. I just want to be able to help in any way I can. Sara was seemingly healthy in high school and as she began college. You just never know, in life.”
It’s far too often that we hear of mistakes kids make while growing up. In this case, here’s a young athlete in Marina Lombardi who not only wants to help someone in need, but has gone the extra mile to put together what should be a very nice event on May 1.
For more information about CIPO and Sara’s Army – visit her website: http://www.sarasarmy.com.
And if time permits, please stop by Friday’s game at Livingston and support a very worthy cause.