Mc­Fad­den back from the brink

In­spi­ra­tional bas­ket­ball coach Kenny Mc­Fad­den is on a mis­sion af­ter re­ceiv­ing a kid­ney dona­tion. Liam Hyslop re­ports

Sunday News - - SPORT -

Kenny Mc­Fad­den counts him­self as one of the lucky ones. Many peo­ple might not feel like that af­ter spend­ing more than a year go­ing to a hospi­tal three times a week to hook your­self up to a dial­y­sis ma­chine for a four-and-a-half hours at a time.

But the charis­matic Amer­i­can-born, Welling­ton bas­ket­ball coach was for­tu­nate to be given a new lease on life when the fa­ther of one of his New Zealand Bas­ket­ball Academy play­ers, Aaron Tait-Jones, do­nated one of his kid­neys to him late last year.

The 58-year-old was suf­fer­ing from poly­cys­tic kid­ney dis­ease, a ge­netic dis­or­der which re­quires reg­u­lar dial­y­sis un­til a suit­able donor can be found.

He was di­ag­nosed with the dis­ease in Au­gust 2017 af­ter be­ing rushed to hospi­tal sev­eral weeks be­fore with acute res­pi­ra­tory fail­ure.

Mc­Fad­den knows how for­tu­itous it was that Tait-Jones was both a match and self­less enough to of­fer him his kid­ney – the av­er­age wait time for a per­son to re­ceive a kid­ney dona­tion in New Zealand is be­tween two to five years, with some peo­ple wait­ing more than 10 years.

‘‘I’m a lucky man,’’ Mc­Fad­den said.

‘‘Nor­mally you’ve got a match and the match is nor­mally a fam­ily mem­ber. You would never

think a Kiwi guy from half­way around the world could be a match, but the man up­stairs was look­ing af­ter me and ev­ery­thing fell into place and I’m very grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity.

‘‘There are a lot of other peo­ple look­ing for a donor, live or de­ceased, and I end up only have to wait less than a year to get back into busi­ness. I’m blessed.’’

With that bless­ing, Mc­Fad­den has found re­newed en­ergy to ded­i­cate to his craft.

While he never stopped coach­ing at his academy – he would be there from 6am-8am on dial­y­sis days, go to the hospi­tal from 8am-2pm and be back at train­ings in the evening – the treat­ment slowed him down.

The new kid­ney means he no longer needs dial­y­sis, but do­nated kid­neys do have a lim­ited life­span, with most kid­neys from live donors work­ing well for 15 to 20 years.

It’s still a heck of a lot bet­ter than not hav­ing a trans­plant and Mc­Fad­den plans to make the most of this sec­ond chance.

‘‘That in­ci­dent re­ally opened up my eyes to show that time is al­ways tick­ing. You’ve got to do as much as you can with the time you’ve got here.

‘‘Now my mo­ti­va­tion is to help as many kids as pos­si­ble achieve their dreams. When I re­tired from bas­ket­ball, my only goal was to help oth­ers.

‘‘At the end of the day, I just want to sit back and see how many peo­ple I helped get that schol­ar­ship, or pos­si­bly get a cou­ple more play­ers into the NBA. That’s my ul­ti­mate goal.’’

That starts back at his academy with an­other co­hort of kids.

He’s ex­cited about a num­ber of teenagers he’s train­ing, in­clud­ing Tait-Jones’ son, Ani­waniwa, and Ta­fara Ga­pare, who has just spent time in the United States with the NBA Global Academy.

At academy train­ings, the name Steven Adams is never far from his lips.

His prized stu­dent has taken his game to an­other level this year in the NBA with the Ok­la­homa City Thun­der and is a con­stant ex­am­ple for the next gen­er­a­tion of Kiwi NBA hope­fuls. ‘‘He’s talked about on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. It’s easy.

‘‘It wasn’t as easy years ago be­cause I used to talk about peo­ple from the States, like Michael Jor­dan or Magic John­son, and for some kids it was far­fetched.

‘‘They al­ways fig­ured they had the ad­van­tage be­cause they were born in the United States, but now when you’ve got a home­grown Kiwi kid who came into this gym and put in the work and is suc­cess­ful, then it could hap­pen for any­body else.’’

The big­gest at­tribute he tried to in­stil in his play­ers, which Adams has in abun­dance, is an ap­petite for hard work. ‘‘They’ve got to have that work ethic and what we try to do is es­tab­lish that early. It’s not easy for young kids to get up that early, but any­body who gets up that early is pre­pared to put in that work.

‘‘You have to have a mo­ti­va­tor to mo­ti­vate them, but not only a mo­ti­va­tor, but to give them the right tech­niques that are nec­es­sary.

‘‘What we try to do is not train like New Zealan­ders, but train like bas­ket­ballers.

‘‘I know what it takes to make it to the NBA be­cause we ac­tu­ally got one kid who went and done it. Steven did it here for four years straight. All we try to do is say ‘hey, if he can do it any­body else can do it’.’’

Kiwi NBA star Steven Adams with young fans at his Auck­land train­ing camp last year.

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