March 18, 2022 Achiever Stories

Sioux City North’s Jayston Paulson overcomes rare disease on way to college football career

Jayston Paulson NHS
Diagnosed with Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome during high school, North High Schools senior Jayston Paulson has battled back, achieving success on the football field and as an advocate for people with neuromuscular diseases. (Photo courtesy: Jesse Brothers, Sioux City Journal)

Sioux City, Iowa – Football is a game of perseverance, but very few kids have had to persevere like North High School senior Jayston Paulson.

Fewer than 20, in fact.

Paulson spent the past three years playing football at Sioux City North, where he emerged as a standout on the defensive line. In his time with the Stars, Paulson was a two-time first team All-District defensive end and was selected to play in this summer’s Iowa Shrine Bowl in Cedar Falls. This fall, he will take the field for Briar Cliff University.

That’s a pretty accomplished resume for any high school player, but it’s even more impressive when you consider what Paulson has had to overcome.

Just three years ago, he thought that his days an an athlete might be over.

Paulson’s life changed in 2018 when he suffered a hip injury that knocked him out of his eighth-grade track season. While rehabbing, Paulson noticed his body wasn’t responding in quite the way he expected it to.

“I was up in the weight room and was lifting weights, and something didn’t feel right,” Paulson said. “I wasn’t lifting the same weights, and when I was running, I noticed that I was running a little slow, I got fatigued a little faster, and something started to not feel right.”

Paulson’s body continued to rebel over the course of the spring and early summer. He lost weight and muscle in his arms and thighs, and found it harder to move around. At times, Paulson had to physically lift his legs in order to get into a car. His mother, Jennifer Witmer, and his step-father, Aaron Witmer, sometimes had to help him just walk through the house.

Paulson went to see his family doctor, who couldn’t find the answer to what was causing his symptoms, and referred Paulson to a doctor in Sioux Falls. That doctor couldn’t pin down the problem either.

“When we went there and they didn’t know what was going on either, it was like ‘Oh, wow. What’s happening? Who do we go to next?” Paulson said.

Soon after, Paulson was referred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Read more of Jayson’s story by Shane Lantz of the Sioux City Journal.