One Shining Moment
Posted: December 2nd, 2010
Coach K was an inspiration to me once he became the head coach at Duke University in my senior year. What he taught me was there were plenty of lessons to be learned in life no matter what one does. That was evident when members of the basketball team would be seen through the hospital especially on the pediatric floor where I worked after graduation.
I left Durham a few years later but have often returned either for personal or business and always have learned more of those life lessons that coach K taught me when I was a student at Duke.
After I left Duke, my brother-in-law made a diagnosis of bipolar that changed my life. As I learned to live with mental illness, it was during this period that both my brother-in-law taught me not to be ashamed of this illness but also took the time to help me understand the illness I had. It was also Coach K that taught me to always lead with my heart for Coach K took the time to send me a note in one of my favorite books “Leading with the Heart”. I did just that as I learned to live with this illness. It was one of the best advice that was given to me during that period.
About four years ago, the brother-in-law that diagnosed me with bipolar was himself diagnosed with a brain tumor. He like Jim Valvano fought to the very end and would never give up. As one fellow doctor stated, “with half of Jim’s brain taken, Jim still was able to successfully propose and orchestrate the opening of the Pennyslvania Psychiatric Institute”.
After a four year battle with a brain tumor, my brother-in-law, Jim lost his battle in January of 2010. Jim left a legacy of providing for the less fortunate like the mentally ill, but most importantly he left behind three young boys and a wife. During this period, I often wondered what I could do to help and that answer finally came to me.
As the end of the basketball season started to approach, as always the Duke basketball began to get ready for what is known as “March Madness”. As it became clear that Duke would be heading to Indy, I decided I would do what I could to get tickets to the final four and take my nephews that recently lost their father to the game. Since I was an Iron Duke I did manage to get at least two tickets and I was able to get two more tickets at a reasonable price. I did attempt to get two more tickets but my sister asked that I not go broke in the process. I did follow her instructions.
On the Friday before the final four, we made the drive together. The excitement started to build for those boys, for as we drove we would see cars that had flags supporting their teams. On Saturday, each of the boys dress in their favorite college attire (Note: my brother-in-laws brother went to West Virginia and made a bittersweet tribute before the game to my brother-in-law, Jim). With four boys dress in their favorite college team attire, ESPN noticed it and filmed the boys when we arrived in Indy. The boys were thrilled with the prospect of making it on national TV and at that moment I realized I gave the boys one shining moment. Even though their pain and grief is still on going, that weekend gave the boys the opportunity to know that with time, it does get easier. It also made me realize where my help was needed as my sister and her family struggled with this illness and the after affects.
Thank you Coach K and the 2009-2010 Duke Basketball for a wonderful weekend. Whether Duke had won or lost, I know that we won something very special. Those boys enjoyed that weekend immensely. When the announcement was made about a rematch of Duke vs Butler in Dec 2010, it was my nephews who contacted me to see what I could do to get tickets to that game. It will be a Christmas gift to the boys.