Coach saves father’s life, donates kidney

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David and Mark Sheely

Mark Sheely recalls never missing his son, David's, football games at Plymouth High School and Bluffton College. Mark is now an avid follower of Westerville Central football where David is the varsity team's associate head coach and defensive coordinator. Earlier this month, David assured that his father will be able to continue to follow his football success. He gave his dad the gift of life.


Mark Sheely vividly recalls never missing his son, David's, football games at Division VI Plymouth High School. He also rarely missed a game when his son went on to play football at Bluffton College.

Mark is now an avid follower of Westerville Central High School football where David is the varsity team's associate head coach and defensive coordinator.

Earlier this month, David, 30, assured that his father will be able to continue to follow his football success for years to come. He gave his dad the gift of life.

While thousands were celebrating Red, White and Boom on July 3 in Columbus, David was donating a kidney to his ailing dad at The Ohio State University Medical Center.

Mark, 56, is now recovering at home. David has returned to summer football conditioning at Central. Both have been given a promising prognosis for full recoveries.

“Football is very important to me, but family comes first for me,” David said. “That's the reason why I did what I did.”

Mark's kidney problems stemmed from diabetes and heart related problems. He suffered a heart attack in 1996.

After undergoing dialysis for a year, doctors informed the Sheelys that Mark would have approximately five years to live if a kidney transplant wasn't performed.

When the Sheelys were first given this grim outlook, Mark and his wife, Penny, were hesitant to allow one of their three sons (Chris, Patrick and David) or daughter (Alexis) to donate a kidney.

“When we first started looking at the possibilities of kidneys to get for me and David offered, I didn't think it would be a good idea to take his because with him having my genes he faces the same health issues that I have faced,” Mark said. “There are several.”

After tests revealed he was a perfect match, David insisted that he donate a kidney and his father finally accepted.

“He was hesitant to take something from me,” David said. “He said would you take something like that from your own kid because I have two little kids (Brooke, 4; and Trent, 2) as well. It makes you think twice about it that way. Of course, I don't want to take that from my daughter or son, but the way he was feeling and when he found out that I was a match and it was all going to work out, I think he is very, very thankful.

“I would do anything for him.”

Since the successful operation was performed, Mark no longer needs dialysis and he has lost approximately 20 pounds, according to his son.

“It's night and day,” Mark said. “I didn't know I was that sick before the kidney. I was run down and I was on dialysis. I was struggling, but I didn't think it was that bad. Now that I have his kidney things are just so much better. I feel so much better. It is amazing even two weeks afterward. The kidney is doing its job.”

The close-knit football family at Central has helped celebrate the Sheelys' gift of life by sending their best wishes to both Mark and David.

“I thought it was very courageous what David has done for his dad,” Central Athletic Director Andy Ey said. “David has two young kids, so it was a risk on his part. His dad is a young man. His dad has 25 years left to live, so it was certainly a calculated risk that he took, but it was very worthwhile. The kids love coach Sheely, so sending their thoughts were pretty natural. The football program – and all of our sports actually – but the football program specifically in this case is very tight knit.”

Said Mark: “I am so pleased and amazed and blessed to have all the support and caring and prayers of everybody that has known about this situation.”

When Westerville Central opens its season on Aug. 24 at Dublin Jerome and David is roaming the Warhawk sideline, he vows to glance in the stands, acknowledge his parents and give thanks for life – both his and his father’s.

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