Returning to the Game I Love
Even though many of the individuals who benefitted from my donor’s tissue will never know the origin of their healing gift, a rare twist of fate has given me the comfort and knowledge of knowing first-hand that my donor was a true hero. I know that because my donor was my best friend’s father, Mike Craig.
My story begins while I was playing tight end on my High School’s football team during my junior year. I tore my right ACL and doctors were able to repair my injury by using my own tissue. I was also able to use my own tissue when I tore the same ACL again my freshman year in college. But when I hurt my left knee my sophomore year in the fall of 2004, the option of using my own tissue was not available. In order to return to the game I love, I was told donated tissue would have to be used for the surgical repair.
Chris Craig, my friend and teammate at the College of Wooster, lost his father just before the start of our freshman year. Mike Craig was a High School teacher and football coach and was killed in an accident at their home. Mike gave the Gift of tissue as a donor, touching many lives. When Chris’ mom, Gail, heard about my injury she immediately contacted Lifeline of Ohio to ask if her husband’s tissue could be used to repair my injury. It was determined that Mike’s tissue was suitable, and our case would be the first directed tissue donation Lifeline of Ohio had facilitated.
My surgery and recovery went well, and Mike’s gift allowed me to return to the playing field the following season. My teammates joked that Mike was controlling my left knee, and that was the only reason I played well that season. Every time I stepped on the football field following my knee surgery, I whispered thank you. I am so grateful for the Gift, and appreciate the Craig’s kindness through our experience. It has brought Chris and I closer together.
Although my playing days are now done, I continue Mike’s legacy by coaching Varsity football at Licking Heights High School where I also teach American History. And I proudly share our story at any opportunity I have.