Clint Holcomb has been an assistant wrestling coach for the last 10 years and an assistant football coach for the last four. He’s coached at nearly every level, from youth to middle school to high school, all within the Conestoga Valley School District.
But for the better part of the last three years, Holcomb, himself a CV grad, hasn’t been able to spend much time with his fellow coaches off the field or the mat.
Instead, after a practice or a game, Holcomb had to return home and hook himself up to a dialysis machine for eight hours.
“I’d go to work, go to practice, coach, come home, eat dinner, plug into dialysis, repeat,” said Holcomb, who has worked in construction since graduating from CV in 2001.
“That’s how my life went everyday for the last three and a half years,” he said.
Dialysis is generally the last option for a person when the kidneys reach end-stage failure. It does the things a functioning kidney should: remove waste, keep certain chemicals in the body evenly balanced and control blood pressure, among other tasks.
The human body usually has two kidneys. Holcomb learned he had been living with one during a trip to the emergency room at Lancaster General Hospital in January 2017.
“My kidney function was only 6%,” Holcomb said. “They kept me in for awhile in order to stabilize things to figure out what was wrong. They scanned my kidneys and found out I only have one kidney.”
Since February 2017, Holcomb has been on a wait list for a new kidney at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
Three years and one month later, at 3 p.m. on the afternoon of March 23, he got the call he’d been waiting for.
“They said, ‘Can you get here by 4:30?” Holcomb said. “I was supposed to have surgery that night but they saw something on the donor’s lungs and just wanted to do an extra test to rule out him being positive for the coronavirus.”
That test came back negative, and Holcomb underwent kidney transplant surgery March 25. He returned to his Pequea Township apartment three days later, with a ride home coming from fellow assistant wrestling coach Mark Kistler.
With most of Holcomb’s family living outside of Lancaster County, Kistler has supported Holcomb in the form of rides to and from appointments and recently shopping for his groceries.
“He’s one of those guys who looks at life (as a) glass half-full,” Kistler said of Holcomb. “Back when this first happened he was a single guy in his early 30s. He would be on dialysis the next three years ... not many people would be willing to do that and still be there for the kids coaching football and wrestling throughout this.”
Holcomb displayed a similar spirit during his playing days as a 5-foot-2-inch linebacker on the gridiron.
“We called him ‘Scrappy’ because for being on the smaller side he played very aggressive,” longtime CV football coach Gerad Novak said. “And he wasn’t afraid of hitting anybody.”
Holcomb, 37, still has surgeries ahead to remove a port in his stomach through which he had previously received dialysis, and to remove a stent in the new kidney, which came from a man in his mid-20s who had died.
Eventually, Holcomb would like to thank the family of that donor.
“Just to reach out to them and say ‘Thanks,’ ” Holcomb said. “It’s not going to go to waste.”