SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Scripps Ranch High School football coach Marlon Gardinera says a major focus in his life is his job as a coach, and a huge reason is that he came close to losing his life.
In 2007, he found out he has a disease where protein mutates and destroys wherever it goes. It first caused chronic pain in his hands and feet, then led to an attack on his kidney and liver. He currently has stage three kidney failure and will likely need a transplant eventually. His liver, however, needed faster action. He was given 1-2 years to live due to the proteins attacking his liver.
However, 14 years later and he’s still alive and well.
It took 18 months to get a liver transplant. He was also able to donate his liver to someone else, extending another person’s life.
“The odd part, my liver was fine. Although it was sending out the protein that was damaging my body, if you didn’t have the same chromosomal defect that I have, my liver in someone else was perfect,” said Gardinera.
He said during that time, the uncertainty made him value life.
“I used to cry myself to sleep at night wondering if id see my boys in the morning,”
At the time, his sons were young. Now, they’re both teenagers. One is a senior and one is a freshman at Scripps Ranch. Both play on the football team, meaning time coaching is extra time spent with his sons.
“Having my two boys high five each other running on and off the field is probably the best moment I’ve ever had post-transplant,” he said.
Knowing that time is precious, coaching has become his focus in life. He’s able to spend more time with his sons, plus inspire other teenagers.
He takes time to volunteer at schools with Lifesharing, an organization that coordinates the organ donation process. He speaks about the importance of becoming an organ donor. His hope is that people hear his story and realize that becoming an organ donor can save lives, like his was saved.
“I consider myself on borrowed time so what I accomplish, what I do for others it matters, and I’m as focused as I could possibly be on doing just that because I don’t sort of feel that invincibility most people feel,” said Gardinera.
April is Donate Life Month.
ABC 10News will be live streaming the heated rivalry football game between Serra High School vs Scripps Ranch High School April 9. Steve Smith will call the game from Serra High. Watch live on 10News.com, the 10News app, or our Facebook page. If you have a streaming device, catch us on Roku or Apple TV. The action starts at 6:50 p.m.