‘More than a coach:’ LaGrange Academy graduate to donate kidney to Warriors coach that greatly impacted her life

Published 8:17 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

When Lucy Wynne thinks back on her life — particularly her teenage years — she remembers the impact made by Charles Parker, LaGrange Academy’s current athletic director. A lifetime of memories come flooding back.

Now, decades after being a student at LaGrange Academy, Wynne is prepared to say thank you by giving Parker the gift of a lifetime — a new kidney. 

Their journey started together all the way back in the 1990s when Wynne — then Lucy Hamby — moved to LaGrange in the middle of the fifth grade and began attending LaGrange Academy. 

“It was tough to come to a new school in the middle of a school year and being so close to the end of lower schooling,” Wynne said. “I felt like I transitioned really well because I was an athlete. I got out there with the boys and girls and played and having coach Parker as a PE coach and softball coach made it an even easier transition.”

Wynne had Parker for gym, but Parker really took Wynne under his wing when she joined the softball team. 

“We had some really good teams back then,” Parker said. “We won two state championships together. Those girls were different back then. We used to practice all year long. I hardly gave them any time off because I knew how high our potential was.”

Wynne eventually graduated high school and moved on. 

Fast forward 20 years and Parker and Wynne are both still in LaGrange with Wynne’s two daughter’s attending LaGrange Academy like their mother before them. 

While Wynne was growing up and building a life and family for herself, Parker kept impacting students and athletes at LaGrange Academy and has now put in over 30 years as a Warrior. 

About a decade ago, Parker started developing kidney problems. As the health of his kidneys slowly deteriorated, he became a prime candidate for a donation last summer. 

“My doctor told me I would be a prime candidate in August and that I would have to eventually go on dialysis if I don’t get a transplant,” Parker said.

Parker kept silent about his fight over the years. Most in the school and those around him on a day-to-day basis had no idea the struggle he was going through. Parker is a quiet warrior who prefers to fight his battles without drawing attention to them.

He made an announcement to members of the school at the end of last summer and expected this to be a years-long process searching out a perfect match.

“I went through several months of testing, and I received a phone call in October that I would be put on the kidney transplant list,” Parker said. 

“About 10 days after I got on the list, I received a phone call from Piedmont Hospital, and they said ‘Charles, we think we found you a kidney’ and I was thinking ‘wow that is quick.’ Normally, it is years. They wanted me up there in two hours so I called my wife, and we went and packed our suitcases and got on the road… we got just on the interstate and the surgeon called back and told me that the kidney was probably not good enough for me.”

It was a heartbreaking turnaround for the Parkers, who returned to their homes and had to unpack their suitcases and their enthusiasm for getting this uncertain waiting period out of the way along with it.

Even though this attempt ended without a positive resolution for Parker, a monumental force was maneuvering behind closed doors. 

When word got through the grapevine that Parker needed a kidney, Wynne felt a connection to Parker even though they had grown apart in recent years. 

The more she looked back on her time at LaGrange Academy, the more she realized in hindsight that Parker was there for her in more ways than a normal softball coach would be.

“After going to LaGrange Academy, I went to the gym and I was parallel parking and I started smiling really big because I thought about how I went to driver’s ed with coach Parker, and he taught me how to drive,” Wynne said with a laugh.

“That tickled me. He taught me about square dancing in PE. He helped teach me how to drive. He was my softball coach. He was not just a teacher figure.”

The more she thought about what Parker meant to her, the school, and the community, the more she felt a calling to make a sacrifice and to donate one of her kidneys. 

Wynne contacted Parker’s family without him knowing and ran the necessary tests to see if she would be a compatible match. 

With things trending in a positive direction, Wynne decided to give Parker a Christmas miracle. She knocked on his door on Christmas Eve last year and gifted Parker a cookie. He was taken aback by her presence at his door on a chilly winter’s evening but invited her in for a sit. Once she told him about the reason for her visit, he was overwhelmed by emotion.

“I had no idea why she was there,” Parker said, chuckling.

“When she told me she was doing that, I’m not a crier but, whew, it was pretty tough.”

Now, they are waiting to pin down a final date. With Parker having so many responsibilities at the school, and Wynne being a part-time teacher, they plan on waiting until the summer to get the surgery, which will require three days in the hospital. 

While the date is not set in stone, one thing is: if his kidneys get so bad he has to go on dialysis, Wynne will happily move up the date to prevent that from happening. 

Soon, a bond built in dirt and clay with a glove and a softball bat will transform into something more, it will be a bond bound by blood that will link the Parker and Wynne families together forever.