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Player's return is Edison's big Gane
Luke Gane is back on the field after missing last season with aplastic anemia.
HUNTINGTON BEACH - Orange County's high school football season is just getting started, but for Luke Gane, his dream has already come true.
After a long fight against a frightening blood disorder, the 17-year-old played last week in his first game since 2007.
Gane was the first Edison player to burst through the pregame banner as the Chargers ran onto the field Friday against Artesia. The senior lineman played almost three quarters in Edison's 36-0 victory at Huntington Beach High.
"It was everything (I dreamt of) and more," Gane recalled this week during a workout at Edison. "Just (playing under) the lights and being with the team."
Gane plays again tonight as the No. 3 Chargers (1-0) meet Long Beach Wilson (1-0) at Huntington Beach.
Last fall, Gane spent a lot of time away from his teammates as he battled aplastic anemia. The rare and serious condition is a blood disorder in which the body's bone marrow doesn't make enough new blood cells.
Gane was diagnosed with the condition in late July 2008, shortly after a bloody nose on the way to the beach wouldn't stop.
He then spent four months during the fall at Children's Hospital of Orange County. He underwent 10 days of chemotherapy to prepare his bone marrow for a transplant Sept. 2.
Projected to be a starting defensive tackle, he missed the entire 2008 season.
That was his younger brother, Jacob, now an 11-year-old who has a twin, Noah.
Gane's father, Jim, said Jacob readily accepted being the donor.
"He was just ready to go," Jim said of Jacob, one of Gane's four younger brothers. "(An) incredible hero."
With the support of his family and football teammates, Gane navigated a challenging recovery. He lost 20 pounds but followed a plan of rest, special diets and exercise.
His first workout sessions started on a stationary bike in his room at CHOC as his mother, Tomoko, charted his improvement.
Gane also guarded against infection, a step that was clear during one of his highlights of his recovery.
He attended the Chargers' game against rival Fountain Valley on Nov. 7. After Edison rallied for a 14-7 victory, two Charger players hoisted a surgical mask-clad Gane on their shoulders.
"They've just got my back," Gane said of his teammates.
There also was further-away support. Servite dedicated its 2008 game against the Chargers to Gane, who will be able play against the Friars on Sept. 25.
But when the games finally ended last fall, Gane's recovery was still ongoing.
In January, he hit the weight room. At first, he worked out privately as he struggled to regain his strength.
"The hardest part was going easy at first," he said. "I wanted to go inside that weight room and absolutely kick butt."
But Gane followed the advice of his coaches and took it slowly. He now weighs a sturdy 235 pounds.
He passed another major hurdle Sept. 2. That was the one-year anniversary of his transplant.
"They say you're 100 percent when you pass your 365-day mark from the bone marrow transplant," he said. "The doctors still want to monitor any flu (symptoms) or any major cuts."
But the biggest date on Gane's calendar was Sept. 4 – the Artesia game.
In his first varsity game, the player in the No. 55 jersey was a two-way starter, rotating at defensive end and playing right tackle.
"It has been awesome to have him back," Stanford commit Jordan Zumwalt said of his teammate in a text message. "We have all missed him."
Edison football coach Dave White is thrilled for Gane but he also is amazed. He saw the player in the hospital.
"What a turnaround," White said. "He's a great role model for our team. ... I respect the heck out of him."
Despite missing his junior season, Gane isn't angry about that part of his journey.
"I wouldn't erase my junior year for one second," he said, pedaling swiftly on an exercise bike. "God gave me this speed bump.
"I learned so much from it. If I didn't go through it, I wouldn't be the person I am today."
"Positivity and prayer," he said. "Two biggest aspects (I learned)."
And Gane isn't done dreaming.
"He has championship dreams for the team," Jim said.