The Conflict of an Ardent Duke Fan on New Year’s Eve

Our friends over at the Duke Sports Blog sent us the story of a lifelong Duke basketball fan who just can't cheer against Penn tomorrow.

I have always been a college basketball fan because I enjoy the fact that many a game, and even championship, has been decided by kids who will never again touch a basketball competitively. I have been an ardent Duke fan since the early 1980s and, like any other college basketball fan, rode the rollercoaster of the many highs and lows. I am also proud to say that on those occasions where Duke was eliminated from the Big Dance, I rooted for another ACC team, even if it was UNC!

You see, I believe that rivals need not be enemies, since the morning after even a championship game, our lives all go on their way ... of that I am living proof! This New Year’s Day, for the first time as a Duke fan, I will be profoundly conflicted over who to root for when they play. It is because they will be playing the University of Pennsylvania in Durham.

Yes, Duke is the program I root for, but I AM ALIVE because of a life-saving Liver Transplant 2 ½ years ago at UPENN. Please let me tell you my story.

In 2008, shortly after the conclusion of that year’s college basketball season, I began to experience odd pains. In preparation for my annual physical, I took a blood test that showed a severe problem, but was not definitive. The next eight months would be riddled with test after test, which would only tell us what was NOT wrong with me.

Finally, the diagnosis came. I had a somewhat rare form of liver disease which was not associated with any type of abuse or hepatitis. That was the reason it took so long to diagnose. I needed a Liver Transplant!

My GI Doc gave us the news. When I asked him what was next, he explained right away that I ought to go to Penn, and he made the necessary arrangements. Before my first visit there, I spoke with every other doctor I knew. They all agreed wholeheartedly with the recommendation.

Now, you need to understand that, in the best layman’s terms I can use, the liver is essentially the brain of the GI System. So, since my Liver was going “haywire,” all sorts of screwball things were going on with me. I looked and felt terrible. Suffice to say, I got to know plenty of people all over our local hospital, and even had a “standing” appointment with my GI Doc each week.

Over the next 6-7 months we would travel about an hour-and-a-half and would be further evaluated at Penn until, during a procedure to address bleeding in my stomach by my local GI Doc, my Liver essentially quit!

I went into a coma.

My wife and local GI Doc, in conjunction with Penn, got me to Penn during the 7 ½ days I was in a coma. I don’t remember anything, except waking up to a bunch of enquiring faces and remarking to my wife “How’d all these people get in my room” ... a line Dean Martin use to use in the Rat Pack days.

The next few days would be taken up by poking, prodding, and all sorts of tests, until I was told they were able to find a donor who was a match for me. 9½ hours of surgery later, on the overnight, I had a new, heathy Liver!

The next few weeks would see me recover at Penn with my lovely wife sleeping, night-after-night, next to me in a hospital recliner. I got stronger and stronger and was finally able to go home.

After months of weekly trips back to Penn for check-ups and about a year of recuperation at home, I was in wonderful shape. The only real physical indication that anything had happened was my surgical scar!

Over that year, I had met so many incredible people at Penn. Doctors, nurses, therapists, and even service staff - All of them did their job so very well, were so very cheerful, and are all responsible for my being here today.

Even if we cannot recall each and every by name, we will never forget them ... Of course, there is my wife, who never left my side. She was with me when I was so sick, was a partner in every aspect of my recovery, and spent more time in prayer than anyone ought to have to. All she has asked of me now is that I last until I’m 90!

Today, I’m a very vocal advocate of Organ Donation. I like to point out that when you’re finished with your organs, you ought to give them away so someone else may continue on. If you think of it ... had someone not thought that way, I would not be here talking to you!

The only profound remnant of my “escapade” is that 2½ years later, I’m out of work. It’s certainly the wrong time in history to find work. The strange irony is that it seems that, thanks to the folks at Penn, I had an easier time finding a new life.

So, you see, on New Year’s Day, while I’d never think of rooting against my favorite college basketball team, I simply can’t root against Penn.

2 thoughts on “The Conflict of an Ardent Duke Fan on New Year’s Eve

  1. A true post from the one-and-only Tattleista Howie "Tater Tots" Gensler:

    "Wow. I don't see how you can watch this team and not be impressed by the job of Coach Allen and his staff"

    Perhaps Howie missed the 2nd half of the Davidson or some of the epic meltdowns last season in the Ivy League.

    I know Howie is a hard core fan, but his constant jock-sniffing of Allen seems a bit over the top.

  2. I'm fortunate to know the man writing this article and in honor of him I'm pleased to root whloe heartedly for U Penn!!!!! And thank you for saving his life!!!!!

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