By Will LeBlond
Saturday, Aug. 18 seemed like a normal day for 16-year-old Josie Westmiller and the Newfield Girls Soccer team.
The Trojans continued on with their preseason regiment that included endurance training, passing and receiving drills, game play, and a core workout to finish the day. Westmiller completed the entire practice, but had a limp at one point and was noticing an intense headache as well as she left the field.
Not long after that, Westmiller went to the emergency room and a few tests confirmed that something wasn’t right. From the ER she was transferred via an airlift to Syracuse Upstate Medical Hospital, as she had suffered a brain aneurysm and was in need of more intensive and immediate care. The news was not positive in Syracuse, as doctors found that her aneurysm had ruptured and emergency brain surgery was needed on Sunday morning to correct it.
The surgery was successful, but a blood clot formed during the procedure and it traveled down the right dominate vessel in her brain. Doctors decided to let the clot take its course and now Westmiller is in the Intensive Care Unit in Syracuse and her healing is well underway.
The few days were very stressful and not just for Westmiller and her family, but also the Newfield community as a whole and her Trojan teammates who had been practicing with her just a few hours prior. The team organized a community-wide prayer that was held at the school for Westmiller to drum up support for her recovery.
“The girls were very heavy hearted and concerned for Josie,” said Newfield Girls Soccer head coach David Green. “All talk was positive and as community prayer ended the people were already brainstorming ideas to help the family.”
That support showed up on the field for the Trojans. When the team competed in the annual Bond Fest scrimmages in Trumansburg, they all tie-dyed shirts and wrote #JosieStrong on the back to show their support. That phrase has been used elsewhere, including a GoFundMe page that has been set up to cover medical expenses.
That page, which can be found at gofundme.com/dc2stp-josiestrong, has already received donations from more than 50 people in just five days that it had been up and is nearing its goal of $5,000 raised. While the support for their teammate continues to grow, the Trojans are forging on with her in their thoughts.
“The girls continue to practice with Josie always on their mind,” said Green. “The thought of Josie fighting to get better in the hospital is a driving force to continue to work hard and push through the discomfort and tiredness of practice and games.”
With the regular season in Section IV underway, the Trojans have started to play games and they also got some support when Southern Cayuga, who they played in their opener, presented Austin Kuczek (Josie’s brother) with a “get well soon” card. While Westmiller remains in the ICU, she is hoping that she can get out soon and rejoin the team for moments like those.
“Josie has a strength about her that many people don’t know about,” said Green. “She loves school, loves soccer and always gives 100 percent while wearing a smile.”
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