By Sue Botos
When Lutheran West High School varsity girls basketball coach Josh Campbell decided to donate a kidney to Jeff Bancroft, the school’s head girls soccer coach, the two men wanted to keep their plans for the December procedure at the Cleveland Clinic under wraps.
Figuring that this would not be possible, the coaches decided to shine the spotlight, not on themselves, but on faith and friendship.
“At first, Josh didn’t want to tell anybody about it. But as it (the operation) got closer, we realized that it affected too many people,” Bancroft recalled in a phone interview from his home, where he is recovering. Knowing that rumors would start to fly when substitutes took over his study halls and Campbell’s classes, the coaches told faculty members and their respective teams.
“It’s what people do for each other. It’s what Christians do. The story is not about Josh, it’s not about me. If the shoe was on the other foot, it would be the same way,” he stated.
The friendship between the coaches stretches back 10 years, when Campbell first came to Lutheran West to work with Bancroft as assistant coach of the girls soccer team. Campbell recalled that Bancroft even offered him a place to live soon after arriving in town.
After watching Bancroft’s health decline last year as his body rejected the kidney donated by his sister in 2008, Campbell knew he had to help his friend. “(After) seeing him daily in a condition like (that) and talking to my wife, it wasn’t even a big thought process,” Campbell stated.
Once testing confirmed that Campbell was an excellent match for Bancroft, surgery took place in mid-December at the Cleveland Clinic. “We tried to put it off until summer, but if you would have seen him, you’d know why we had to do what we did,” Campbell explained.
While neither of the men are yet at 100 percent, Campbell is back to work, and Bancroft reported that he is doing well despite an infection, discovered during his first post-surgery checkup, that sent him back to the hospital. “Within four hours I was back in the OR and spent seven more days in the hospital,” he recalled.
“I wouldn’t say I’m fully recovered, but God’s been very good. I’ve had no hiccups, no issues that kept me from being on the sidelines with the basketball team or even from school full time after four weeks,” Campbell stated. Joining the “one-kidney club,” he added, has not made a big change in his lifestyle, which includes keeping hydrated and exercising.
Bancroft felt well enough to attend the Longhorn girls’ basketball game on Jan. 22, and was overwhelmed by his reception. “Just to walk in, everyone in the bleachers wanted to know how I was. The hugs and handshakes were great,” he recalled.
Getting back into shape for the fall soccer season, as well as returning to school, top Bancroft’s list of upcoming goals. Recalling his difficulties throughout the past season, he praised his team. “I struggled through practice (but) they understood. I got frustrated sometimes with myself and I took it out on the team.”
Looking back on the support he has received, Bancroft commented, “I got cards on top of cards.” He noted that some were from students not in his study hall, and even from graduates.
But it’s a positive attitude that Bancroft said carried him through. “I tried to be as positive as possible. I never looked at it as a bad thing. God sets the way things go and you just go along with it. You learn from it and keep moving on.”