By Emily Dalrymple
It is minutes before the game is supposed to start and Marist College softball player Lindsey Kinel, 21, finds various parts of her body being taped up. Her wrists are tightly wrapped in pre-wrap and sports tape. This will continue on for the next fifteen games of the season.
Kinel suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. According to medicinenet.com, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints. An autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s tissue is mistakenly attacked by their own immune system. RA is a progressive disease that has the potential to cause joint destruction and functional disabilities.
Kinel is a softball player from East Hartford, Connecticut. When she came to Marist freshman year, she was recruited as a catcher. Because of the RA, she has since been moved to the third base position and has also decided it is in her best interest not to catch again. As a senior, Kinel hit her first home run this season. She has undertaken a series of different treatments over the years, from shots to painkillers, in order to decrease the pain and to enjoy her favorite game.
“Now every six to nine months, I have to go into the hospital and I get an infusion,” said Kinel. “You go in for the day and you have an IV all day.”
“Two weeks later you go in and have the same thing done.”
RA can be debilitating in several different ways. Because RA causes inflammation of the joints, it becomes difficult to bend, various joints swell up, and the pain can be overwhelming. When Kinel tells people that she plays softball while going through this pain, it surprises and motivates them.
“I was a camp counselor,” said Kinel. “They know that I play softball and go to school, they like look up to me to go to college and try to play sports.”
Kinel has found herself in a role model position for the past few years. She is a camp counselor, she coached girls’ softball ages 9-12, and she knows that she influences these young girls.
When asked what she thought about being a role model, she said: “I kind of like it, I feel like I’ve done a good thing with my life.”
Kinel said the hardest part about finding herself in a role model position is being watched by the girls. Sometimes the girls try to add her as a Facebook friend, but she has to reject them.
“I think that’s the hardest part,” said Kinel. “When you know that they’re watching, you have to watch what you say and do because you know that they’re taking every little thing that you do into perspective.”
Kinel’s friend Kristen Casamento has seen her struggle and believes that she can do anything.
“I could absolutely see Lindsey as a mentor in the future because she has been through a lot and she can help other athletes out that have this crippling disease,” said Casamento. “She is a positive person and can definitely help anyone out.”
Kinel would like to continue to coach softball and wouldn’t mind if people knew her story, but she doesn’t think she could ever be the kind of person who would try to be a motivational speaker.
“I would want people to know the arthritis side of my story just to know that it is possible [to play sports,]” Kinel said. “I wouldn’t mind having an article in a magazine or something along the lines of that.”
“Someone can pick it up and read it and know that they can get through it because at one point, I was really bad,” Kinel said.
Kinel’s struggle has not always been successful. There was a point in her softball career that the arthritis could have stopped her from playing.
“Last year the Marist doctor told me that I was no longer going to be allowed to play because he thought that the arthritis had affected my neck to a point where if I slid, it could be catastrophic,” Kinel said.
Casamento remembers how Kinel was unable to play during her junior year. “I know how much that hurt her, Casamento said. “She always wanted to play so bad but she knew that she couldn’t.”
Kinel said that at the time, she was not feeling any pain in her neck. She decided to get a second opinion from various other doctors and was eventually able to continue playing on the team.
Casamento is proud of Kinel for continuing to play, even if it meant that she would have to take a risk.
“This is probably the last couple of months she can play softball and she is proving that she is not going to let anything bother her,” Casamento said. “This is the best she has ever played and she is happy.”
Kinel’s story can be motivational to anyone who thinks that a disease can keep them from succeeding. She has persevered through the pain just for her love of the sport.
“I know that I can get through it and still be successful, still graduate,” said Kinel. “I never have to quit because of this.”