PEI

'He never once complained': Souris teen's strength inspires teammates

The Souris Spartans high school basketball team has a code — "In the end, a Spartan's true strength is the warrior standing beside him." Fifteen-year-old Daniel McIntosh knows what it's like to be a warrior.

Daniel McIntosh has dealt with a lot in his young life, but it hasn't stopped him from doing what he loves

Daniel McIntosh, who is battling Crohn's disease, has emerged as a quiet leader on the Souris Spartans high school basketball team. (Sarah Keaveny-Vos/CBC)

The Souris Spartans high school basketball team has a code - "In the end, a Spartan's true strength is the warrior standing beside him."

Fifteen-year-old Daniel McIntosh knows what it's like to be a warrior.

He's been fighting a battle with Crohn's disease since he was nine years old. And last May, he lost his father.

And through it all, he's exemplified that true Spartan spirit.

Daniel McIntosh, front row, centre, with his basketball team in 2014, when he was in Grade 7 and Crohn's disease began to hit him hard. (Submitted by Karen Aucoin-Smith)

For the first couple of years things were pretty stable. Daniel and his family learned to manage his disease.

But in Grade 7, when Daniel was 12 years old, the disease hit him hard. Because it was so painful to digest food, Daniel barely ate. His body was not absorbing enough nutrients to thrive.

Dropped 35 pounds

In a year, he went from 95 pounds down to 60.

To help Daniel stay strong, his doctors outfitted him with a 24-hour feeding tube. It was the only way to get nutrition into his body.

The feeding tube was implanted into his nose and the tubing ran across his cheek and down behind his ear.

When he needed to eat, he wore a backpack that held a nutrition-rich liquid that would be piped directly into his body.

Jeanna McIntosh says through all the challenges with Crohn's disease, Daniel 'took it all in stride.' (Submitted by Jeanna McIntosh)

Daniel wore this feeding tube on and off for four years. He even wore it during his basketball games. The whole time, according to his mother Jeanna McIntosh, Daniel never complained.

And he never stopped battling on the basketball court. 

'The first thing he asked the doctors when he woke up after surgery was, "When can I play basketball again?'"— Jeanna McIntosh

"He took everything in stride for all that he went through. All the medications he had to take, all the needles he had to get, all the I.V.'s  He just took it all in stride," she said.

"He never once complained. Ever. I don't know where he got that strength from. He just accepted it, right from the beginning."

In November of 2016 Daniel went to the I.W.K. Hospital in Halifax to have surgery to remove a severely damaged part of his intestine.

"The first thing he asked the doctors when he woke up after surgery was, 'When can I play basketball again?'"

Living with Crohn's Disease is not the only painful experience Daniel has had to endure in his young life.

Father 'taught me a lot'

His father, Kevin McIntosh, died suddenly in May of 2017. Kevin was the father of six children and an admired basketball coach. He gave Daniel and his older brothers and sisters a passion for the game.

"He taught me a lot." Daniel said. "Things like see the floor. Listen to your coach. Don't panic, slow down and don't rush it. Be a playmaker.

"If you have a good shot but your teammate has a great shot give up your good shot for their great shot."

Coaches and teammates say Daniel McIntosh exemplifies the Souris Spartans motto. (Sarah Keaveny-Vos/CBC)

Karen Aucoin-Smith, the athletic director at Souris Regional, has coached Daniel for many years and has seen the influence he has on his teammates.

"The boys trust Daniel. There is no negative with Daniel ever. It's always positive and encouraging. They're there for him but he is mostly there for them. Regardless of what's happening in his life."

At his sickest, Daniel still showed up to play, even on days he was only strong enough to play a couple of minutes.

'They respect his opinion'

But those two minutes could make all the difference, Aucoin-Smith said.

"If he didn't get the two minutes we were not going to win, because I think the boys always looked up to Daniel and his ability to pass and know what was happening in the game and essentially he has been a rock all along.

"They respect his opinion and he doesn't say too much so if Daniel decides to say something it's of value. I think he knows the game probably more than anybody else who is out there. He's been around it his whole life."

"He is a true fan of sport and the value of sport. He is a true believer in basketball and a huge Spartan."

Friend and teammate Matthew Antle says he has learned a lot about resiliency playing alongside Daniel. (Sarah Keaveny-Vos)

Friend and teammate Matthew Antle has played basketball with Daniel since Grade 2. Now, they are Grade 10 rookies on the Spartans team.

Matthew said Daniel brings a quiet leadership to their team that all the players respect.

"When he is on the court he doesn't say much but he does those little moves that just get the team fired up and just brings up the chemistry. Everyone just seems to play a lot better when he is on."

Life lessons

Matthew said he has learned a great deal about resiliency by playing alongside his friend over the years. Especially after seeing Daniel deal with the pain of Crohn's disease and the sudden death of his father.

"I've learned to never get down on yourself and always keep your head up. If you miss a shot, you'll make the next one. I think he just teaches us not to give up and keep going."

Daniel McIntosh, the quiet leader of the Souris Spartans basketball team, plans to do just that.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Keaveny Vos is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism degree. Sarah has won regional, national and international awards for her work and loves sharing stories of Islanders doing meaningful and inspiring things in their communities. You can email her at sarah.keaveny-vos@cbc.ca

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