Lake Forest’s Wes Janeck thankful for chance to return to field

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LAKE FOREST — Wes Janeck remembers the Sunday. It should have been a day of rest, but instead it ended with him in the hospital.

When Janeck woke up that morning in August of 2013, he knew something was off. He felt disoriented, unbalanced and weak. He recognized the symptoms. Janeck, now a Lake Forest senior, had felt the same way at football practice the week before.

“I was feeling gassed, like I had bad mono,” Janeck said. “I remember thinking, ‘Why do I feel so out of shape now?’ ”

A trip to a local hospital revealed that Janeck had an irregular heartbeat. He traveled by ambulance to Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Hooked up to a heart-monitoring machine during the ride into the city, Janeck was in a vulnerable state. But he believed what teenagers often believe, even in times of turmoil.

“I figured nothing serious was going to happen. I mean, I’m a healthy kid. What can happen?” Janeck said.

What happened changed his life.

Doctors told Janeck he was suffering from a heart condition called myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the middle layer of the heart wall usually caused by a viral infection.

“It was a virus anyone could have gotten. Somehow it managed to crawl into my heart,” Janeck said.

He spent five days in the hospital while doctors got the virus under control. During a checkup a few weeks after his release, doctors said his heart was beating too fast again. He had to check back into the hospital.

Although Janeck was never told his condition was life-threatening, doctors did tell him to forget about playing football that season. Janeck, who also plays lacrosse for the Scouts, had already committed to play lacrosse at Maryland. Now that was in doubt.

“I’d ask them [about lacrosse] and they’d say, ‘Focus on getting better.’ They never gave me an answer,” Janeck said.

It was a slow process, but Janeck followed the medicinal regimen set by his doctors and eventually began to get better. In the winter he rode on a stationary bike and played racquetball. Just before spring, he was cleared to resume lacrosse activities. He played the 2014 season without a hitch, setting a school record by winning 152 ground balls.

He was also cleared to play football and quickly distinguished himself during summer workouts. A 5-foot-10, 180-pound running back, he reached personal and team bests in the weight room with a 265-pound power clean. No one was surprised by Janeck’s rapid ascension. Although he missed all of his junior football season, he was constantly around the program.

“His relationships never changed. The fact he wasn’t participating didn’t change the relationship with his friends or his teammates,” said Lake Forest coach Chuck Spagnoli, whose team moved to 3-0 with a 37-14 win over Wauconda Friday.

“There’s a trust factor on both ends.”

Senior linebacker Jack Traynor added, “You could tell he wanted to help us contribute so badly and was itching to get back. He was always a part of our team.”

On Friday morning, Janeck will wake up, get dressed and go to school. That night, he’ll put on his football uniform as the starting running back for undefeated Lake Forest as it faces No. 1-ranked Stevenson (3-0, 1-0 NSC).

He’ll do all of that while carrying his life story of affliction and achievement.

“Now I’m basically out of the situation [and healthy], which is nice. I’m comfortable talking about it,” Janeck said. “There’s more of a purpose. I’m so appreciative.”

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