Point University soccer coach shows resilience during battle with kidney disease

Published 5:23 pm Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Mark Wozniak is heading into his fifth season as the men’s soccer coach for Point University. Due to several factors, this season will be different from any season in the past. 

Wozniak has dealt with kidney disease since birth. With this chronic disease, Wozniak had to constantly overcome obstacles and expectations. 

“Obviously, it’s been something that I’ve had to deal with and adjust to,” Wozniak said. “The doctors never really knew what I was maybe capable of doing athletically and physically.”

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Many people with kidney disease have severe limitations, but Wozniak has never let his disease stop him from accomplishing his goals. 

“I had always been told that most of the people with the severity of the kidney disease that I had were either mentally or physically, or sometimes both, challenged,” Wozniak said. “Me being six foot tall and going on a soccer scholarship to university, and then going and playing overseas was not something that in their doctor brain was a possibility for me.”

Recently Wozniak’s condition has given him extra complications. This has led to several changes in his life. 

He started dialysis recently and is beginning the process of getting a kidney transplant. For now, Wozniak has to get treatment three times a week. 

The dialysis treatments have also caused a change in his schedule each week. Wozniak has had to become more of a morning person with treatments being at 5:30 a.m.

“Obviously, the early morning is difficult,” Wozniak said. 

One of the major side effects to the dialysis treatment is fatigue. Wozniak coaches two teams, Point University and Legends FC, and he has five kids.
The lack of energy has been a major adjustment. He said that each day is an adjustment depending on how his treatment goes. 

“Some days are a little easier, and I’m a little tired but not too bad,” Wozniak said. “Then there might be some days where I might have to take a couple naps during the day, and I’ll be dizzy. There’s no real set plan…” 

Wozniak will have to have another surgery soon as the doctors will have to move the tube for dialysis from his clavicle to his arm. 

Another major change for Wozniak has been the dieting required for his dialysis treatment. While on dialysis treatment, he has to stay away from salt, potassium, and foods with high phosphorus content. 

“It’s definitely been a challenge,” Wozniak said. “I wouldn’t say I’ve ever really had a strict diet like this before.”

As an athlete and coach, Wozniak had a relatively healthy diet, but he had never needed to focus this much on the content of his food. With this new diet, he’s had to stay away from several foods that most people eat on a daily basis. 

Wozniak and his family are viewing the dialysis as a temporary solution. Wozniak is expecting to get a kidney transplant in the future. 

Wozniak has had three people step up for him and offer to be a donor. He is just currently waiting on the paperwork to go through so that he can begin testing. 

Due to these donors, the process for Wozniak has been sped up exponentially. Typically someone without a living donor would have to wait over three years for a transplant.

“The benefit of having a living donor, that speeds it up anywhere from three months to eight months,” Wozniak said. “That’s obviously a much quicker process than the three to five years.”

All three of the donors for Wozniak are friends from different points of his life. One of his donors is his former high school teacher that Wozniak had not spoken to in several years. Another donor is a high school coach that Wozniak met while coaching at Point University. The third donor option for Wozniak is a friend of his brother.  

“It’s very interesting how they’re able to do that without any side effects or responsibilities in a negative way but doing it essentially gives life to the next person,” Wozniak said. 

With Point’s season rapidly approaching, Wozniak is figuring out the best timing for his kidney transplant so that he can miss as little time as possible. 

“Obviously, our fall season for Point is the busy part,” Wozniak said. “Our hope is that I can kind of continue doing the dialysis and then kind of plan for maybe an early December surgery time to do a transplant if the timing of everything works out that way.” 

Mark’s wife, Sharee Wozniak, has started a GiveSendGo campaign to pay for some of Mark’s medical expenses. The goal for the campaign is $9,000.

The community has shown an overwhelming amount of support to the campaign. The campaign has raised well over $7,000. Many of the donations have been done anonymously, and some people have sent donations outside of the online campaign. 

“Honestly, it’s been really a blessing,” Wozniak said. “You don’t realize how many people are thinking about you, praying for you and even just willing to support you until you see all that come in.”
Wozniak said that the outpouring of support from the community has lifted a burden off of his back. 

“Essentially, God has our back, and he’s providing through other people to try to make sure and help us not to have that be a worry or a concern,” Wozniak said.