A coach's ultimate gratitude

VIDEO: A coach's ultimate gratitude

ELTON, LA (KPLC) - On this Thanksgiving: a story of the ultimate gratitude.  A life saved, thanks to a selfless act.

It is a story that starts on a high school basketball court in the Jeff Davis Parish town of Elton, where sports are much more than just a game.

On the season home opener evening for the Elton Lady Indians basketball team, the mood is different.

It's a season that was once uncertain for head coach Roland LaComb.

"I can remember having pains in the back of my back," he said.  "I can also remember just feeling tired, but not knowing why."

It was in the summer of 2015 that Coach LaComb started feeling very sick.

At the urging of his wife, Amanda, who is also a physician, he saw his doctor.

"They told me that my kidneys were failing. I think my world came crashing down and that was the time that I had to face it and I had no other thoughts," he said.

The diagnosis: polycystic kidney disease, the same disease that took his father at just 46 years old.

A grueling regimen of at-home dialysis started and would follow for the next 16 months.  That is hard on anyone, let alone a father of seven, including five adopted children.

Still, Coach LaComb refused to stop coaching.

"That last summer league game, they had to carry me out," he said.  "I couldn't breathe, I was flustered, but you know I finished. And to me, that was the most important thing."

By that time, Coach LaComb was on the kidney transplant list, waiting for a donor match.
His assistant coach, Kim Captain, saw his health deteriorating in front of her.

"When I noticed that he was really sick, he came with stitches in his lip," she said.  "He had fallen on a concrete floor and busted his lip and bit his tongue, so that's when I kind of knew that I had to do something or check at least."

So, Captain went to her mom with a simple question:

"I asked my mom my blood type," said Captain.

"She said 'O positive. Why?'"

"I said, 'You know why.'"
Captain kept her testing a secret from practically everyone.

Amanda LaComb had her suspicions after Captain had asked a couple of questions about coach's health.  

But, she knew not to get her hopes up.

"It's a one in a million chance that someone you're not related to would end up sitting next to you every day and be a match," she said.
Then, a call came at the end of the last season.

"I was like, 'Coach, I didn't want to let you know beforehand, but I want to let you know now that I did test for you and come to find out, I am a match,'" said Captain.

"I could just hear him ecstatic, excited, overwhelmed, you could just hear it all in his voice."

"'It was you?!' That's what I said. 'It was you?' said LaComb.

"She said, 'You didn't know?' And I said, 'No, I did not know.' And I gave her a hug. A good one."

On August 28th, Coach LaComb had both of his kidneys removed - and Kim gave him one of hers.

"It just made sense. It was more than basketball. He's such a great guy for the community, for the girls. He does a lot," said Captain.

"I look at her differently," said LaComb. "I look at her as a family member."

"Sometimes we'll be walking through the front door and she'll be like, 'You shouldn't be carrying that, it's too heavy. You're not supposed to lift over ten pounds.' Or 'Are you drinking your water?' It's like a big sister and I appreciate that," said LaComb. "She's gone beyond just donating a kidney. She cares. And I care about her too."

Long after this basketball season ends, these girls will have a lesson that does not fade - one that proves the ultimate definition of teamwork and putting the needs of others before your own. 

"No matter what, they care for one another," said junior point guard, Maycie Fuselier. "We've all had our difficulties time to time, but we all work as a family and get through everything together."

"We came up with this little hashtag," said senior power forward, Josie Woods. "It's #wedoitforcoach.  We're just trying to do it all for coach."

Seeing beyond self to show what teamwork looks like.

"We can serve others in so many different ways," said LaComb.  "It doesn't have to be through donation of an organ. And I told my girls that. I said 'Yall can be so much more of a team together if you just give of yourselves. We're not asking you to give an organ to one another, but give of yourselves to one another and we can be so much better."

Coach LaComb is now disease-free, thanks to Coach Captain's healthy kidney.

It typically takes several months to feel 100 percent again after undergoing a kidney transplant.  Both coaches are getting better each week.

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