People went to San Antonio, Texas for the Final Four basketball games for different reasons. Reporters went to report the results and write interesting stories. Photographers went to get the best pictures. Television personnel went to see if they could improve ratings. Fans went to cheer for their teams and enjoy good basketball. Coaches went to learn something new and to make contacts that could be beneficial in future employments.
But nobody else went for the same reason that one famous Division I coach and one wife of a Division II coach went. They went to meet for the first time.
Coach Billy Gillispie has a great record as a coach at Kentucky, Texas Tech, Texan El-Paso and Texas A&M. His life changed last November. During Thanksgiving he had a persistent cough and bad headaches. He went to the emergency room. He thought just a steroid shot would solve his problem.
Instead he was hospitalized. Hospital personnel starting asking, “Do you have a living will?” and, “What is your religious preference?” That got his attention. At age 58 he was diagnosed with kidney failure and would need to begin dialysis, unless he could get a kidney transplant. There are more than 100,000 people waiting for a healthy kidney, and about 4,000 people a year die who don’t get them soon enough.
Coach Gillispie went to the Final Four to meet a lady, Ericka Downey, whom he had never met. Her husband, Mark, is a Division II college coach. She read in the newspaper about Gillispie’s need for a transplant “ASAP.” She started circulating the story on social media, but got no response.
Ericka then asked her husband if she could do a crazy thing. She wanted to be tested to see if she could be a potential donor. She said that idea was initiated because of her faith. She said, “Alright, I think this is how it is going to go – if it’s not God, if He’s not involved in this, then I won’t be a match.” In mid-February Ericka heard from the Mayo Clinic that she was a match!
Coach Gillispie attended a social gathering for coaches at the Final Four. He was going to meet a woman on Friday night who said she was “wearing a red dress.” Coach Gillispie entered the room, wearing a dark blue suit, feeling unsure and apprehensive. Mark Downey, Ericka’s husband, greeted Gillispie and carried him over to introduce him to his wife. It was an awkward moment at first, but then became emotional. Coach Gillispie met a woman who was willing to donate a kidney to save his life. She did it because she felt it was God’s will!
I wish I could have been there to observe that. Ericka called her sons, 12-year old Drew and 6-year old Brice, over to meet Gillispie. He was going to be the recipient of her generosity. She told Coach Gillispie that she was giving him her left kidney, because left has always been her best side!
The surgery has been set for April 24th at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota. You can be involved in this unique experience by praying for everyone involved.
Who won the Final Four? Villanova won the basketball game, but Erika Downey and Billy Gillispie won the biggest game in San Antonio – the game of life. Erika gave “her best side” in order that Billy can live.
What do you have to give?