ONE YEAR LATER: Parker and Wynne look back at life-changing kidney transplant

Published 2:18 pm Thursday, May 16, 2024

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A lot can change in a year. A little over a year ago, LaGrange Academy athletic director Charles Parker was unsure how much life he had left to live. But fast forward to the spring of 2024 and Parker feels more alive than ever. After floundering on the kidney wait list for years, Parker finally met his match in the form of his former softball player and LaGrange Academy alum Lucy Wynne.

On May 19th of 2023, Wynne donated her kidney to Parker. She not only saved a life, she completely revolutionized the way Parker has been living for the last several years.

“Nothing is the same. I’m still doing the same job, but that is about it,” Parker said, softly chuckling to himself. “The difference is my energy level has doubled and I mean, I feel like I’m 40 years old again sometimes you know and I have to realize I’m not 40.”

With a renewed lease on life, Parker is doing all the things he could not do the last several years, whether it is something as mundane as cutting the grass or as adventurous as going on a cruise. The once bleak future now looks as bright as it ever has.

“Over spring break I started feeling almost back to normal and I’ve been in the yard doing work and cutting my grass and I plan to be back coaching third base this fall,” Parker said, beaming with happiness.

It is the little everyday things you miss most when they are gone, like coaching softball. Parker’s accolades and resume coaching speak for themselves, but it’s the lives he has touched along the way are what makes his time at LaGrange Academy special. One of those lives was Wynne, who played for Parker in the 1990s. 

Both have come out of this experience with an altered perspective. While Parker has a renewed sense of optimism, Wynne has changed her entire outlook on what it means to be a donor.

“I had no idea about kidney disease before any of this, neglecting or ignoring high blood pressure and the signs of diabetes just completely kills your kidneys,” Wynne said. “If everyone’s experience could be like mine donating, I don’t know why more people don’t do it because it truly was no skin off my back.”

The relationship between the Parker and Wynne family has only grown stronger over this past year. After going over two decades without much contact, the two are truly bound by blood these days.

“Sometimes I think my last name is Wynne because we talk every week now,” Parker said as the two shared a laugh. “I think I worry more about her blood work than I worry about my own.”

Each had their own support system lifting them up through this process. It was easy for Parker’s family to get on board as they would move heaven and earth to see the patriarch of the family back in good health. Wynne’s family had to make sacrifices through this as well and with a young family that could be challenging, but there was no limit to the support she got from her nuclear family.

“Chris has been really good. I think that was the hardest thing for me to do because it’s something that I felt like the Lord was asking me to do. But I knew that it would directly affect my kids, my girls and Chris because I knew that there was going to be a summer of taking it easy and doing a lot of pulling my weight, a lot of laundry and a lot of cooking and a lot of taking the girls here and there,” Wynne said. “So I had a sense of guilt about that. And I had a good friend tell me, she said ‘If the Lord is asking you to do this, then he’s also going to prepare the hearts of the people around you.’ And that made the world of a difference to hear that to feel like even though this wasn’t put on Chris’s heart, or, my girls because it was put on my heart, everyone else was also being prepared for this journey too. And gosh they and the whole community really rallied around us.”

There were dark days before the light at the end of the tunnel revealed itself. The last year before the kidney transplant was a real struggle for Parker. The end felt nigh, but Parker faced head challenges the only way he knew how with a determined face and never a complaint.

“I remember sitting out at the picnic tables, the last day of school (in 2023) with Dr. (Brian) Dollinger and coach (Britt) Gaylor and I was absolutely finished,” Parker said. “My energy level was nothing, no energy level at all.”

Fast forward a year and life feels different for Parker. Not only has his energy levels returned, but the kidney is functioning as well as it could possibly be at this point in time.

“It’s funny because when we went to get our blood work last, his kidney was working better than mine,” Wynne said, laughing. 

Parker interjected that she probably “regrets giving me the wrong kidney.”