A former NFL linebacker is currently in hospice care at his parent's home in Georgia after fighting liver disease for the past two years. Geno Hayes, 33, told ESPN he's been placed on the waiting list for a transplant at the Mayo Clinic and Northwestern Medicine in December after being hospitalized over 20 times in the past year.
"The first diagnosis they gave me was alcoholic cirrhosis," Hayes told ESPN before entering the hospital in March. "But when we dug in deeper, it became just chronic liver disease, because I don't drink like that. If I did drink, it was just like wine or something like that. But my body is made different. And that's what [my doctor] said - 'Everybody's made different.'"
Hayles also said he went from 220 pounds to 150 when he was first diagnosed. He believes the use of nonprescription pain medications is what caused the condition along with a family history of liver disease. "I didn't do like regular guys do with the Toradol shots ... I just took [NSAIDs]," Hayes said. "I thought it was safer. But once I got out and started doing research, I was like, 'Oh ... my body is not set up for this.'"
Hayes first kept his diagnosis private and went into "supreme depression." He also said he would not let his children see him when he was in the hospital. But as time went on, Hayes began to enjoy his life and share his story with others who are in the same situation.
"I'm enjoying life, I'm spending more time with my kids and I really want to help people," Hayes said. "My main goal is to just inspire, to inspire the next person, no matter what they're going through, no matter who talks bad about them - family, friends, social media, all of that crap - it don't matter. You take care of you. Make sure you're straight. That's all I want to do."
Hayes was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the sixth round of the 2008 draft. He played four seasons with the Buccaneers before signing a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears in 2012. After spending one season in Chicago, Hayes signed a two-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In his career, Hays recorded 401 tackles, 10 sacks and six interceptions with one returned for a touchdown.