Happy ending: Eisenhower’s Kevin Hale healthy, living life and spreading the organ donation message

Teacher Kevin Hale, left, talks to students about organ donation while referencing Gregorio Cortez, right, during a presentation to science classes at Eisenhower High School Friday. Cortez donated a kidney to Hale. It’s all Hale has thought about since, his mind racing with numbers and lineup combinations that could’ve won Eisenhower the game. Teacher Kevin Hale, middle, talks to students about organ donation while referencing Gregorio Cortez, right, during a presentation to science classes at Eisenhower High School Friday. Cortez donated a kidney to Hale. What Hale hasn’t thought about is how he’s going to get through the next practice without throwing up, losing his breath, or feeling horrible muscle pain. Or how he’s going to manage the rest of his life on dialysis because his kidneys were failing.

All the health problems Hale dealt with last year as the Panthers’ coach are gone thanks to the man who came to visit him the day following the loss to MacArthur — Gregorio Cortez, who donated the kidney that now has Hale as healthy as he’s been in years, 70 pounds lighter and exercising regularly. Eisenhower’s head coach Kevin Hale and MacArthur’s head coach Eldon Bryan talk between innings on Wednesday at MacArthur. Cortez said he never expected, or even really thought about meeting the person who would receive his kidney following the June 22 surgery. But as soon as he met Hale, there was an immediate bond — as he told the class of Eisenhower biology students from the classes of Sharon Lopez and Penny Henson-Dunning gathered to hear about Cortez and Hale’s experience on Friday. Teacher Kevin Hale, left, reacts while Gregorio Cortez talks about his experience of donating a kidney to Hale during a presentation for science classes at Eisenhower High School Friday. Cortez and his daughter, 14-year-old Jazmyn Cortez, came to Decatur on Thursday and are staying with Hale and his wife, Ranee Hale. Jazmyn didn’t think it was a good idea when she first heard her dad was donating a kidney, but is happy to see the result. Kevin Hale, right, poses with Gregorio Cortez, who donated a kidney to Hale. "It’s magic," Kevin said. "It’s wonderful. My doctors say I’m flying through every barrier."

Hale recognizes that he has a new lease on life. He’s thrown himself more into his Christian faith, tells his story to anyone who wants to hear it and spreads the word of organ donation. " Organdonor.gov ," he yelled to students as they left class following the bell. "Check it out." Eisenhower’s head coach Kevin Hale calls a play on Wednesday at MacArthur. "It has been a hard season, but Gregorio’s visit has helped me remember to put things in perspective," Hale said. "I’m going to enjoy my company tonight — we’re going to have a big dinner and fire and look at the stars.

Now Hale has new missions. He’s spreading the word about organ donation and giving support to those suffering from kidney failure. And he’s trying to build the baseball program a brick at a time. This year he’s beginning a summer travel baseball team for Eisenhower players, and — along with the Eisenhower booster club — has donated his own money to help players who couldn’t afford to play. Top Jobs

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