Area athletes share passion for soccer and overcoming adversity

Soccer Players

Brayden Arnold and Jaci DeLaCruz, students at Natchitoches Central High School, recently realized they have more than a passion for soccer in common.

A sophomore, Braden starts for the NCHS varsity team. A freshman, Jaci is a start for the girls varsity team. But more than these commonalities, they are both former patients at the Shriners Hospital in Shreveport.

Braden was diagnosed with osteoporosis at 6 months old. Doctors discovered an abscess, which demanded immediate surgery on his right hip. During the surgery, doctors discovered the abscess had burst, so Braden had an IV line inserted into his heart which fed him Rocephin to get rid of the Septic. This line stayed in place for 12 long weeks.

At this time, he started physical therapy and went to the Shriners Hospital for further treatment. Braden’s prognosis was that he’d walk with a 85% limp because the femur of his right hip had already started deteriorating. He was ordered straight line shoes with a 1.5 inch lift to wear.

After an amazing recovery Braden was released from Shriners in May of 2005, at the age of 23 months, when he was no longer co-dependent on the straight line shoes, and no longer walking with a limp.

NCHS Boys Coach Rusty Stultz said, “Braden is a great kid who has the potential to play at the next level.”

After overcoming incredible odds stacked against him, Braden stays active with basketball, baseball, swimming, tennis, track and cross country. He plans to attend LSU and study medicine.

Jaci’s first surgery was December 2009 when she was 5-years-old. She was diagnosed with Legg-Perthes disease, a rare childhood condition that affects the hip. The surgery she underwent cut the femoral head of her thigh bone, shortening her right leg and placing hardware. Her last surgery was March 2014 to remove the hardware and do a bone graft.

Jaci’s mother remembers when Jaci stepped off the school bus and her femur shattered. “Normally after something like this, you’d have a limp for the rest of your life,” said Carey Hamblin. “It’s truly amazing. She’s in the Chiefettes and she tumbles and she’s about to start running track.”

Both Jaci and Braden also play competitive soccer with the Natchitoches Youth Soccer League and have for a couple of years. The league has recreational play from ages 4-14 and, sometimes, have competitive teams that start around age 12 and go through high school. The team that they play for is in the 15 and under boys age group.

“Braden is the leading scorer on the team this year and one of the standout athletes on the field,” said Coach David Chesal. “Even with the significant physical differences between boys and girls at this age, Jaci more than holds her own on the field.”

Competitive soccer in Louisiana is a state wide league. They will play teams from New Orleans to Shreveport in a league that lasts from August to April.