In two seasons as the top scorer for the Franklin High varsity lacrosse team, Eric Boyle was one of a kind. An extremely hard-working leader, Boyle was so talented around the crease that coaches created an offense to run through him.
At 6 feet 2, 220 pounds, Boyle led last year's 14-3 squad with 51 goals and 13 assists. He was so eager to build on those numbers this spring that he dedicated his offseason to the sport he started playing in a Reisterstown recreation league when he was 5.
Boyle spent his fall afternoons practicing his array of shots.
But that all changed in mid-January when the All-Baltimore County first-team selection began to feel aches in the pelvic and stomach areas, and severe pain in his hip and left leg any time he moved them.
"I felt like I had a stomachache all the time," said Boyle, who was wheeled into the emergency room at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Boyle was initially diagnosed with a virus and mononucleosis, but on Feb. 11 doctors determined that he had osteomyelitis, which is an infection of the bone caused by bacteria that moves through the bloodstream.
The Reisterstown resident has no idea what caused the infection.
"It could have happened when I was playing rec basketball," Boyle said. "I could have fallen and got a microscopic cut and that infection could have just slid in. It attaches and attacks."
Six weeks of intravenous antibiotics ensued, along with numerous pain killers -- and that was just the beginning of nearly six weeks at Hopkins and more than two more at the Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Boyle had the first of two surgeries on Valentine's Day.
"They went in and washed out the hip area and they knew there were pockets on the pelvis," said his mom, Jacquie Boyle. "Our doctor told us he would most likely need two or three washouts and they would do as many as he needed to try and speed the process up."
Boyle improved after the first surgery and he was eating better, but he took a turn for the worse when his blood pressure skyrocketed and he developed a fever.
Two weeks later, he underwent another washout and his symptoms reversed.
"His blood pressure went down to 70 over 35, his heart rate was 70 and his temperature was around 93," said his mom, who thought he was headed for the intensive care unit. "They put him on another antibiotic and flooded him with fluids and they had to put him under one of those bear-hugger warmers."
The washout surgery was not without complications.
While some bacteria is released, some dead bacteria stays in the system and the body goes into overdrive to fight it off.
They took additional blood work and Boyle was visited by a cardiologist and endocrinologist to make sure his body was functioning normally.
He was bedridden for 4 1/2 weeks and had to wear a traction brace that weighed about 6.5 pounds for his hip.
Franklin coach Joe Madigan was disheartened as Boyle's condition worsened, especially after the initial diagnosis of mononucleosis.
"I knew when he came back from mono he would be fine. I had no doubts about that," Madigan said. "But, as the news got worse and worse, it was just heartbreaking for everybody. But Eric had a good attitude, always positive, always laughing."