Lupus unable to ruin Hesse’s college soccer dream

Anthony Maggio

In her 10 year soccer career, Minnesota midfielder Kyndra Hesse has battled tough opponents at the high school, club and Division I levels.

But through it all, Hesse’s toughest opponent has literally been herself.

As a sophomore in high school, Hesse was diagnosed with systemic lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood and kidneys.

The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but environmental and genetic factors are involved. None of Hesse’s family members have the disease.

Hesse immediately began taking a slew of medications to treat achy joints, arthritis and fatigue – the most common affects of lupus

The medications immediately caused many changes for Hesse.

“I’d be the slowest one out there and I was used to being the team captain, playing all of every game,” Hesse said. “Now I was always on the bench. At practice I was always the slowest one. I couldn’t shoot the ball and could hardly run without tripping on the grass. If the ball hit me I would fall over.”

With tremendous support from family, friends and teammates, Hesse fought lupus and her doctor’s original recommendation to quit playing.

After a few months, she slowly came down on her medications, which included steroids. Still, Hesse has never been below 10 milligrams of steroids a day in the last five years. Doctors consider 10 milligrams per day for any more than two months a high dose of steroids.

The physical side effects of the numerous drugs Hesse was taking – including her appearance, coordination and speed – were the biggest obstacles to overcome.

Slowly Hesse improved, and by the time she finished high school, she had led her Stillwater squad to the 1999 state title and was named Minnesota’s 1998 Ms. Soccer.

After high school, Hesse accepted a scholarship to Wisconsin, where she played her freshman season. She started all 21 matches for the Badgers, and shared team MVP honors.

But Hesse transferred to the Gophers after not “clicking” with the Badgers. She was also frustrated by the distance from her regular doctor.

“We recruited Kyndra pretty hard so we were really excited when she decided to come back,” Minnesota coach Barbara Wickstrand said. “She’s just a natural leader and hard worker – technically and tactically one of the best players we’ve had in our program.”

In her sophomore campaign, Hesse started 15 games, taking 27 shots and recording three assists.

She sat out last season because she was academically ineligible after going on hiatus for the spring semester of 2001.

Hesse is third on the team in shots (18) this season, and has one assist.

The Gophers assisted Hesse on Sept. 15, when the entire team participated in the Walk for Hope at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis, which benefited the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota.

“This personally affects all of us and Kyndra,” teammate Keely Dinse said. “So it’s good to be able to support her and the community in general in the same event.”

Today, Hesse still takes five or six pills a day, most of which remedy the side effects of lupus. The steroids she takes are the only medication that directly treats the disease itself.

“I took all my medications every day even though it made me look like crap and feel like crap, I knew it was a means to an end – and soccer was that end,” Hesse said. “I knew I had to play Division I. And I wouldn’t take away a day of anything I’ve done.”