Mind & Body
Kidney Donation – A Gift of Life
11/2/2017 4:20:05 PM
Kidney Transplant


When Roland LaComb was in his 20s, his father, at age 46, died of polycystic kidney disease. The loss marked a turning point for LaComb in more ways than one. Not only was his father gone, but he knew it was time to find out whether he had the disease too.

Polycystic kidney disease, or PKD, causes cysts to grow in the kidneys and often leads to kidney failure. Because LaComb had a parent with PKD, he had a 50 percent chance of having it himself. He got tested when he was 23, and sure enough, he had the disease too. 

At first, LaComb was devastated. But he took care of himself, and for most of his life, he stayed healthy. Almost 25 years later, he coaches basketball and teaches special education at Elton High School. He and his wife, Amanda, have seven children.

Although LaComb did well for more than two decades, in the spring of 2016, his doctor told him his kidneys weren’t working properly. At the time, LaComb felt fine, so the news was a surprise. But by June, he was weak, sick, and having trouble breathing. He started dialysis, and for the next year and four months, he had three 3½-hour sessions each week.

 "I saw how it was taking time away from my kids and how my wife was ignoring some of her duties to help me,” he says. "I was very depressed.”
Dialysis was also a short-term solution; LaComb would eventually need a kidney transplant.

Unlike most other organs, kidneys can be donated by living donors, as it’s possible to live a normal, healthy life with one kidney. LaComb sought donors on Facebook and the response was huge, but everyone who inquired about donating ultimately was not a match or did not meet all the requirements.

But little did LaComb know that someone else had been quietly looking into the possibility of donating. Someone who had been by his side through two basketball seasons: his assistant coach, Kim Captain.
Captain, 33, met LaComb when she played on the girls basketball team at Elton. He coached the boys team at the time. But she didn’t get to know him well until after she became his assistant coach, a position she previously never would have imagined having.

As Captain explains it, she made some "terrible choices” when she was younger, including dropping out of high school during her senior year. She went back to get her diploma the next year, but she didn’t really get her life back on track for a long time.

"There were a lot of ups and downs in my life, and it wasn’t until I had my daughter (now age 6) that I realized I wanted to take life seriously,” she says.

When Captain moved back to Elton after living away for several years, she found herself watching a girls basketball game. After the game, she simply asked LaComb if she could work as his assistant coach. To her surprise, he said yes.

Over the next two years, Captain would grow to greatly admire and respect LaComb — both on and off the court.

"He really cares about the girls on the team,” she says. "He goes out of his way to make sure not only that they are good on the court but that they have leadership qualities. Not many people put in that time and effort. And also the way he takes care of his own children. He is an angel among us.”

After a basketball game toward the end of last season, Captain began to consider the possibility of donating a kidney to LaComb. She stopped at Subway on her drive home, and Amanda LaComb just happened to pull in, too. They talked, and Captain made her decision.

She asked Amanda to keep things quiet to avoid giving LaComb false hope in the event that she couldn’t donate. But she turned out to be a match, and she had no medical issues that would rule her out as a donor.

When LaComb got the news, he was ecstatic. "This woman had been sitting next to me at basketball games for the last two years, but there was a bigger reason why she was there -- to save my life,” he says. "I am just so thankful.”

The transplant surgery took place on Aug. 29 of this year. The immediate aftermath was rough. LaComb developed pancreatitis, and one of his medications caused him to vomit. But he has slowly regained his strength and expects to be back at work soon.

Captain’s physical recovery was quicker, though she experienced depression for a short time after the operation. But she never questioned her decision.
"I just wanted to help this man so he can continue to help these girls and love his family because that’s what he does,” she says. "It’s inspiring.”

Captain, who received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2015, is working on a master’s degree in emergency and disaster management. She’s also leading the basketball team until LaComb returns.

"It’s a huge responsibility, and I’m glad they trusted me with it, but I’m really ready for him to come back!” she says.

LaComb and Captain had a good relationship before the transplant, but now their bond is strong and unshakeable.

"I have always respected Kim,” LaComb says. "She is a true-blue person. But giving part of herself to me — that just goes so deep. I am incredibly thankful.”
Posted by: Andrea Mongler | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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