33-year-old former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Florida state linebacker Geno Hayes was transferred to his parents’ hospice in Georgia two years after being diagnosed with liver disease.
Hayes told ESPN prior to entering the hospital last month that he was placed on a waiting list for a transplant at the Mayo Clinic and Northwestern Medicine in December after being hospitalized more than 20 times in the past year.
“The first diagnosis they gave me was alcoholic cirrhosis,” said Hayes. “But when we digged deeper it just got chronic liver disease because I don’t drink that way. When I drank it was just like wine or something. But my body is different. And that’s what [my doctor] said – ‘Everyone did differently.’ “
“I went from 220 [pounds] to 150, “said Hayes.” That was the first time I was diagnosed. “
Geno Hayes, who played for the Buccaneers from 2008 to 2011, has been transferred to hospice care after battling liver disease for the past two years. Scott Cunningham / Getty Images
While alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver increases in people ages 25 to 34, according to a 2018 University of Michigan study, Hayes suspects that use of nonprescription pain medication caused his condition, combined with a family history of liver disease. Hayes said he had taken over-the-counter pain relievers during his active career, but never more than the amount indicated on the bottle.
“I didn’t do it like normal guys with the Toradol shots … I just did it [NSAIDs]”Said Hayes.” I found it safer. But when I got out and started doing research, I said, ‘Oh … my body isn’t built for that.’ “
Hayes, who played for the Bucs from 2008 to 2011, the Chicago Bears in 2012, and the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2013 to 2014, was diagnosed with the disease while being treated for an unrelated medical problem.
The FDA advises that too much Tylenol (acetaminophen) can cause liver damage. People with liver disease or those who consume three alcoholic beverages a day should consult their doctor before taking the drug. As for Aleve (naproxen), it has been linked to cases of drug-induced liver injury – 1-3 per 100,000 users, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
“At first I didn’t let my children come when I was in the hospital,” said Hayes, who has children aged 13 and 8 with Ms. Shevelle. “In time we let them know about me, and now they know how to handle things …”
“I was literally in depression for three months … deepest depression,” said Hayes, who initially kept his diagnosis private before opening up, believing it might help others. “I wanted to know more, but I didn’t want to be a burden.
“When I was in my position, I was always so private that I closed myself to people.”
He said he hoped his story would help people appreciate all the good things they have – the simple joys in life – like being surprised by his daughter in bed or hearing her laugh, and that of his son, if they would grab his phone and take pictures of him sleeping and post them on his Twitter account.
“I enjoy life, spend more time with my children and really want to help people,” said Hayes. “My main goal is just to inspire, to inspire the next person, no matter what they’re going through, no matter who’s talking badly about them – family, friends, social media, all that crap – it doesn’t care. They care about you. Ask Sure you are straight. That’s all I want to do. “