Calkins: Carlisle dishing out a giant assist
Matt Calkins: Commentary
Friday, June 8, 2012
Today Jake Carlisle undergoes a surgery that will likely be responsible for ending his basketball career. And his family couldn't be more delighted.
Relatives, Carlisle said, have been showering him with appreciation. His wife, Kathy, added that she is "beyond happy" about the pending procedure. And when his mother-in-law, Marcia Hajdukovich, began to discuss the matter, she broke down crying and had to hand off the phone.
"She's getting a little emotional," said Marcia's daughter, Tracie Wilhelm. "It's a big thing."
Last November, Marcia's tears were triggered by an entirely different source. After doctors denied six of her children the chance to give a kidney to their father, John, she became her husband's default donor. But despite having passed all of the preliminary tests, Marcia was declined following the final evaluation when her kidney function proved too low.
Her spirits, consequently, sunk even lower.
John had been on dialysis for 4 1/2 years and had lost feeling in his hands and legs. Moreover, at 74, he was too high-risk to be placed on the national kidney transplant list, leaving him reliant on family or friends to bequeath the coveted organ.
So with this latest stiff-arm to John's recovery hopes, loved ones had begun to fear living life without him. That's when Carlisle insisted on living life without one of his kidneys.
"This was a no-brainer to me. Some people ask 'why would you give up a kidney?' but my question is 'why wouldn't you?' " said Carlisle, a Camas resident. "And I've already gone through a vasectomy, so this is nothing."
Carlisle, 36, has a reputation for spouting quips like that on the basketball court, too. But like the class clown who doubles as the valedictorian, his production always gave him a pass.
Last July, Jake was selected as the postseason MVP after leading the Vancouver Volcanoes to their first International Basketball League championship. And a decade or so before that, the 6-foot-9 forward was jostling for loose balls with Tim Duncan and David Robinson at Spurs training camp.
In fact, during the first four years of his marriage to Kathy, Carlisle unsuccessfully pursued his NBA dream sans a stable career. But forgetting to read "A Father-in-law's Guide to Badgering," John did the unthinkable: he supported him.
This was a new experience for Jake, who grew up not knowing his dad and credits John as his first true father figure. So when Marcia's attempt at a transplant fell through, Jake decided that John being out of options wasn't an option.
Within hours, Carlisle scheduled his first appointment to be tested and blazed through the rest of the process at Formula-1 speed. By April, doctors deemed his kidney compatible for John and scheduled the Seattle-based surgery immediately.
To much of the family — which includes 21 grandchildren on the Hajdukovich side — this sudden flipping of the hourglass seemed almost surreal, and nobody contacted the Carlisles for a week. But once everyone collectively pinched themselves, adoring emails flooded Jake and Kathy's inbox.
Before emotion paralyzed Marcia's voice on the phone, she gushed how Carlisle "is just such a wonderful person." Kathy added that this operation permanently removes her husband's "in-law" tag, while her sister Tracie mentioned how "Jake has a big kidney, but a huge heart."
Of course, to do all this, Carlisle had to sacrifice what he thinks would have been his final year with the Volcanoes. Obviously, choosing between human life and pull-up jumpers isn't a choice at all, but parting ways with a sport often requires a handkerchief for even the most masculine among us.
Then again, Jake hasn't completely ruled out giving his basketball career another chance at life, either. Asked what it would take to get him back in uniform, Carlisle responded, "it just depends on whether I can contribute."
Hey, that we know he can do.
Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or firstname.lastname@example.org