Dragons fullback Cody Ramsey is battling a serious illness that could force him to give up rugby league.
News Corp revealed the 22-year-old has spent the past fortnight in hospital after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and may require surgery.
The disease causes inflammation and ulcers on the bowel and digestive tract and is often caused by an immune system malfunction.
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Ramsey’s mum, Kim, told News Corp that he was admitted to hospital after experiencing severe pain following a long-distance run at training.
“Cody thought it was just a bug and ran his nine-and-a-half kilometres,” she said.
“That’s where it all unravelled. His immune system was fighting something it couldn’t fix.
“The doctor originally said he might need surgery and it could end his footy career.
“I’ve never seen him so sick and in so much pain.
“Fortunately, he’s progressing now and we’re hopeful he’ll be OK to play again next season.
“He’s a tough cookie and he’ll hopefully be back in the new year.
“Footy’s important but as long as I’ve got a healthy boy … family is everything.”
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Ramsey, who faces another two weeks in hospital, is being treated with a government-funded drug called Infliximab which costs $12,000 per injection and takes two hours to inject each dose.
Kim also praised Dragons coach Anthony Griffin, who has been in constant contact with both her and Cody.
“You know what, that man is one in a million,” Kim said of Griffin.
“He has rung me every single day. He has texted Cody every single day.
“He has gone to his ward to visit him at the hospital a couple of times.
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“He cares so much for all of his players and he’s treated Cody like a son.
“I can’t thank him enough. When he rings he’s never in a rush. Honestly, he’s the nicest man.”
It’s a devastating blow for Ramsey, who managed to overtake Tyrell Sloan last season as the Dragons’ first choice fullback.
Ramsey started the season on the wing but shifted to the No.1 jersey in Round 11 and retained it for the remainder of the season.