NewsLocal News


Leon High athletic director receives new kidney

Posted at 6:24 PM, Apr 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-23 18:24:06-04

LEON COUNTY, Fla. — Leon Athletic Director Mark Feely has coached thousands of Leon County students over the last three decades.

Over the last decade, those students have been with him through cancer, dialysis, and now, a kidney transplant.

April is actually Donate Life Month and Coach Feely is one of thousands across the country who can now say this month has personal meaning to him.

"He was born on St. Patrick's Day, so he's Irish. He's kind of been beat up, but he's not quitting," said Feely. "So it's got to be Rudy the walk-on football player from Notre Dame. Rudy's doing really well."

Rudy is Leon High School Athletic Director Mark Feely's new kidney.

"One of the nurses comes up and says, have you named your kidney? I was like, that's a thing," said Feely.

For Feely, receiving Rudy, and getting to this point, has been a long time coming.

Feely was diagnosed with multiple myloma in 2009. Light chain deposition disease caused his kidney's to fail. In May of 2013, he went on dialysis, and had been waiting for a kidney ever since.

"Got a call at about 12:38 in the morning on St. Patrick's Day. Can you be on the road in an hour? Yeah, I can be on the road in like five minutes," said Feely.

Feely was one of over 110,000 people on the National Transplant Waiting list, about 90,000 of those are waiting for a kidney.

"When they moved me from the bed to the surgery table, there was this big dish over my face with a light that could light up a football field," said Feely. "It wasn't on yet. There was a guy over my shoulder. I was raised Catholic. I said twice. The guy was putting it over my face and taking it away behind me. He pulls it away, and I said twice. He said what's the mean? I said that's twice somebody's had to die so I could live."

Somebody had to die for Feely to live, a feeling that's hard to describe.

"Calling your kids name out at graduation, seeing your first grandchild born, walking a child down the aisle. All of those things are intangibles. You can't really put your hands on them," said Feely. "Those are reasons to do that. If you can think about how important some of those things are for your own life, then you can imagine what that would mean to someone who's been given the gift of life."

Coach Feely said he did write a letter to the donor's family. It's now up to the donor family if they want to respond, but he wanted them to know how thankful he was to receive the gift of life.