Zach Doubek had an incredibly challenging summer. The Maplewood Middle School student and athlete spent several weeks in the hospital — including 12 days on a ventilator — fighting for his life due to a MRSA infection in his leg.
After many surgeries and time in a rehabilitation facility, the Maplewood Middle School 7th grader returned to school this past September. “Zach and the rest of us are doing OK,” wrote Zach’s dad Joe Doubek in a recent email. “A little fragile…. and fantastic compared June, but all in all we are OK. We still have some mountains to climb but much has gotten to a new, relatively stable, normal state.”
In fact, as Zach continues his physical and occupational therapy, he has rejoined his Maplewood Recreation Department league basketball team — if only to practice and support his teammates. Coach Ed Starzynski said that Zach “is not physically ready to play basketball yet.”
“But he told me in the beginning of the year that his goal was to score two points.”
To make that dream come true, Starzynski and the West Caldwell/Caldwell coach agreed to allow Zach to score the first points of today’s game — the first Saturday home game of the season for Maplewood. “I also put all of the kids on the task of making sure that the gym was packed for this event,” said Starzynski.
As game time neared and the Maplewood Middle School gym filled far beyond the usual crowd of players’ parents, Zach warmed up with his teammates. All wore “United We Stand ZD” t-shirts. Starzynski put Zach in with a pat on the shoulder. The tipoff sent the ball directly to Zach who did not miss a beat, taking it in for a quick layup.
The crowd went wild.
Zach played so well, in fact, that Starzynski sent him in again late in the game as Maplewood maintained a double digit lead (the final score was 57-38). Zach scored four more points. His determination during play was evident — as was the sportsmanship and grace demonstrated by his teammates and the opposing players.
Asked afterward how he felt, Zach said, “It was really cool.”
In fact, the entire Doubek family found the event really cool. As dad Joe Doubek wrote in an email before game time, “We wish everyone a happy holiday season and again thank you for all of the love we have felt throughout this life-changing event.”
Click on any photo below to view a slideshow of images from today’s game.