Duck’s Raiders

Coach is back and better than ever after leave of absence due to heart complications

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Emily Molden

Karla Romero, Reporter

After being gone from work since August due to his worsened cardiomyopathy (a hereditary heart muscle disease that makes it hard for the heart to transport blood to his body), football coach Kenny Duck came back to teaching on April 11. He found out about his illness in 2007 and had been taking medication for it; however, the medication was no longer enough for him.

“I had to get a pacemaker defibrillator put in,” Duck said. “I had two stints that were put in as well. They were doing okay, until about the week before Thanksgiving [2015]. My heart got worse. They said I needed a heart transplant.”

Duck was due to receive the transplant in January; however, before that happened, he had intestinal problems, because his kidneys started to fail. He had to be backed off the 1A transplant list, reserved for the patients with the most urgent need. His doctors had to take a new course of action.

“They put in an LVAD [left ventricular assist device],” Duck said. “It’s a pump that actually pumps blood through my body. Since I’ve been on the LVAD, I’ve felt a lot better. Matter of fact, I’ve felt better than I’ve felt in a long time.”

In July, Duck will be able to move back up to the 1A list and apply for a new heart; however, he plans on waiting to be moved up until spring of next year, so he can continue teaching his World History and Teen Leadership classes, as well as coaching football.

“I want to live a normal life,” Duck said. “After I get on the list, I could get [a new heart] within the month. It could be within 45 minutes; it could be a day or two. I’m [waiting] because that way when I take off, I’ll take off in the summer time. That way, it won’t affect my teaching.”

While Duck was on leave, there were many fundraisers organized for him. At school, Social Studies Department Chair April Aston raised money for him by selling jean passes to teachers. She also accepted any other donations for him. HOSA had a dodgeball tournament for him during the spring semester, in addition to the one they held first semester for Special Education teacher, Mrs. Shannon Odom who has breast cancer.

“All of the money that we’ve received from them is in what I call a medical fund,” Duck said. “All we use that fund for is medication and doctors’ visits. Right now it’s not really medication and doctors’ visits because I’ve met my [insurance] deductible. But anything that deals with my illness, that’s the money we use for it.”

Duck said his Christian faith is what helped him the most during this tough situation. It never wavered.

“When you put everything in His hands, and live day by day, you don’t have to worry about anything,” Duck said. “I literally tell the Good Lord ‘thank you’ when I put both feet on the floor in the morning, and I say ‘thank you’ when I pick them up and put them in my bed. The only reason why I’m still here is because of the prayers. I think the Good Lord still has more in store for me, obviously.”

Duck has received support not only from current students and colleagues, but also some of his friends and former players.

“It’s been awesome,” Duck said. “That’s the reason why teaching is the greatest profession. You develop relationships with students and friends and family members. You really don’t realize how supported you are until something like this happens. All the prayers and the blessings that these people have done for me are the only reason that I’m still alive today.”