SOUTH OGDEN — Lindsay Hassell’s life has been dedicated to sports and fitness.
A native of Mountain Green and resident of Farr West, Hassell was a wrestling state champion at Morgan High School and played college football at Dixie State and Utah State. He went on to play five years of professional arena football in Oklahoma and Arizona, then coach several more.
At 40 years old and still in impressive physical shape, one would never guess Hassell is at end-stage kidney failure.
At 18, Hassell was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, or Berger’s Disease, a diagnosis that meant he’d eventually need a kidney transplant. According to Mayo Clinic, Berger’s Disease occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin-A lodges in the kidneys, hampering their ability to filter blood.
“We brought (crossfit) here to the Ogden Athletic Club with the purpose of trying to share the knowledge that I had to learn through a lot of years of trial and error ... and show kids the right way and show adults there’s a faster way to do it. There’s a funner way to do it,” Hassell said.
But with stage-5 kidney failure, Hassell needs a kidney transplant and crossfit will have to wait.
Luckily, his wife, Julie, volunteered as a live donor and was a rare match — sparing Hassell from a years-long wait by joining about 93,000 others on the kidney transplant waiting list.
Instead of years, the transplant happens in days. The Hassells will undergo the procedure on Thursday, June 29.
Hassell hopes people in his crossfit program can apply what they learn in his class to their personal lives, and uses his situation as an example.
“I worked really hard in the sports world and the way I worked hard to get there was through my training, and this is just another obstacle,” Hassell said.
“That’s the same as training. I’ve got a goal. I’ve got something on my mind, I’ve got to get to these steps to do it, and this is how I’m going to do it. Training relates to everything. It just teaches you a lot of things about work ethic, and work ethic is a great thing to have,” he said.
While crossfit certainly carries the stigma that it’s for gym rats and fitness freaks, Hassell carefully crafts exercises designed for each person in his class.
One of his students is South Ogden resident Scot Wahlquist, who was months away from permanently being in a wheel chair before he joined Hassell’s program nine years ago.
Wahlquist was born with cerebral palsy and the muscles in his lower body are constantly tightened. Over the years, that condition caused significant damage to his joints and back, but expensive physical therapy wasn’t an option.
“At the time, I was probably six months to a year away from being in wheelchair forever,” Wahlquist said. “Nine years ago, I met with Lindsay and I’m still here and still walking.”
Now, those Hassell has helped through the years are rallying to return the favor.
His friends have also planned a pair of fundraisers — the “Crossfit Summer Games” on Aug. 12 at the Ogden Athletic Club, and an Instagram auction on Aug. 19 at the account “KidneyforCoachLindsay.”
“This is a no-brainer to be able to help him any way that I could, because he’s extended the quality of life not only for me, but for my family,” Wahlquist said. “Any way that I can give back to him and make sure people know what he’s done for me, I’m happy to be able to do that.”
A post on the athletic club’s website says, “Money donated to Lindsay and Julie will go towards any bills, expenses, needs of the family, as well as long-term medication, and loss of income due to recovery time.”
Hassell said he doesn’t like to be the center of attention, but he appreciates support from people with whom he has lasting friendships.
“These guys are the best. I’ve met some really good people. I’ve met one of my best friends and some of the best people I’ve ever worked with,” Hassell said.
“They’re just good people, that’s all I can say. I can’t thank them enough for how good they are.”