Journey of Faith: Amobi Okoye

(Last Updated On: August 7, 2015)

Amobi Okoye with mother, Edna Okoye, as he shares his story at a celebration in his honor.  Photo credit: Christopher Allen of C. Allen Media.

 

To say that Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Amobi Okoye has much to be thankful for would be an understatement.

After suffering a seizure and being placed in a medically-induced coma in 2013, doctors would diagnose him with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a rare brain disease that primarily affects young adults and children.

Five months later, the top-10 draft pick and youngest player to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft, would awaken to face a new reality.

“They pretty much told me everything that happened and I didn’t believe it,” said Okoye of his medical ordeal and diagnosis.

His disbelief would soon transform into a determined resolve that would astound his doctors and the physical therapists that assisted in his recovery.

“It took a lot, I had to start with baby steps, walking and talking, and writing my name,” said Okoye.

His family members leaned on their faith as they stood by his side through the toughest times and credit God for Okoye’s recovery.

“We give all the glory to God,” Edna Okoye said to attendees at a recent dinner celebration in her son’s honor.  She then urged audience members to read, Susannah Cahalan’s book, Brain on Fire, to gain a better understanding of her son’s disease.

Arinze Okoye commended his younger brother for his strength and determination.

“He was pushing himself everyday to get back to living his regular life and playing football and wasn’t going to let anything stop him, and we had to slow him down to make sure he didn’t over do it, at times,” said Okoye of his brother’s willpower to recover.

Doctors involved in his care were amazed at his progress and described his recovery as miraculous.

“The same dedication he showed with his academics and athletics earlier in his life was evident throughout his rehabilitation process, aided by the unwavering support of his family,” said Dr. Joseph Jacob of TIRR Memorial Hermann.

A little more than a year and a half after his life-altering seizure, Okoye has fought back to reclaim his life and has set his sights on helping others.

In support of the Autoimmune Encephalitis Alliance, he shares his story to increase awareness of the disease that sidelined him — an experience that he says “intensified his outlook on life.”

“Prior to everything happening, I was growing in my faith and understanding what I was put on this earth for, and now I understand it better,” said Okoye.

He has formed a bond with individuals and families who have lost loved ones or are fighting to recover from the disease.

The University of Louisville graduate also continues his efforts to educate and empower youth through an organization he founded in 2007 called “Kickoff 4 Kids,” a nonprofit that provides programs to give hope to kids and communities and build unity among children around the world.

Okoye has become an inspiration and a role model for many, both on and off the field, for his positive outlook and persistence in the face of challenging circumstances.

At the recent celebration, Okoye expressed appreciation to family members, friends and the team of medical professionals that stood by his side during a very trying period in his life.

“I would just like to tell people that there is a God out there that has a plan and purpose for your life. All you have to do is believe and know that the plan is already set for you,” said the 27-year-old NFL player.

With a recent decision by the Dallas Cowboys to delay activating him from the reserve/non-football injury-list, Okoye has his eyes set on a comeback in 2015.

“My belief is that I am going back to play football. I want to show people that you can overcome something like this and still do what you love to do,” said Okoye. “I take life on a minute-by-minute, day-by-day basis, and whatever God calls for is what He calls for.”

To learn more about autoimmune encephalitis, visit www.aealliance.org.

Photo credits: Christopher Allen of C. Allen Media

Photo credits: Christopher Allen of C. Allen Media

Journey of Faith: Amobi Okoye