LEADING the Wallabies out onto a packed stadium to take on the mighty All Backs or the Springboks is a long way from being unable to eat food and almost dying.
This is the contrast facing Biloela teen Joseph McDonald.
Fourteen-year-old Joe is battling a metabolic condition where his metabolism is so fast he is at risk of malnutrition.
In March this year Joseph's body went into malnutrition and he nearly died.
Joe has had a special nasal tube put in which he must wear all the time, which feeds him a special high-calorie food to keep his energy levels up to speed with his body.
His mum, Jennifer, said Joe had always been a small eater, but became unwell last year with stomach aches.
She took him to a dietician who raised the alarm that something was not right and they visited their first specialist in Brisbane in November.
In January, Joe stopped wanting to eat and spent three weeks in a Brisbane hospital in March when he become malnourished.
“He was critical - he nearly died,” an emotional Jennifer said.
“I had a lot of nightmares,” the mum said.
She said there was a crash trolley in Joe's room but didn't think much of it as it was a shared room.
“I am trying to remember why I didn't see it - they were expecting him to crash.”
Joe and his family now have to train him to eat properly and gain weight.
Like many teens he answers in one word answers, calling his nasal tube “annoying”.
Jennifer said her son, who is in year 9, had not had any problems at school.
She said Joe was spoilt when he got home from Brisbane, as he got any food he wanted such as donuts at any time.
“It was hard to find stuff that was not 98% fat free in Woolies - we spent hours looking,” Jennifer said of the search for fatty foods.
His family must also visit Brisbane every six weeks for specialist doctors' trips in regards to his condition.
Joe's younger brother, Thomas, 3, has been diagnosed with the same condition, and they are hoping early intervention will help him avoid Joe's problems.
A lover of sport, Joseph is no longer able to play as the challenge is he must be within a healthy weight range before he can play again.
“He can barely ride his scooter,” his mum said of Joe, who used to play union, league and touch.
But Joe might get very close to some high-calibre rugby - he has been short listed in the Suncorp Bank's Wallabies Ball Kid Experience after being nominated by his aunt, Bronwyn.
Suncorp Bank is looking for big-hearted kids to receive a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a Ball Kid at one of three remaining Wallabies Tests this season in Sydney, Perth or Brisbane.
“I hope he wins - he really needs a boost,” his mum said. Joe should find out if he's successful early next week.
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