ON SPORTS: Yoakum coach returns to court after getting kidney from wife (Video)


Feb. 16, 2013 at 10:02 p.m.
Updated Feb. 17, 2013 at 8:18 p.m.

Yoakum basketball coach Joe Mireles, left, with his son, Joe, is back this season after going into kidney failure last February. Mireles is healthy again after his wife, Sandra, center, gave him one of her kidneys for a successful transplant last August.

Yoakum basketball coach Joe Mireles, left, with his son, Joe, is back this season after going into kidney failure last February. Mireles is healthy again after his wife, Sandra, center, gave him one of her kidneys for a successful transplant last August.   Angeli Wright for The Victoria Advocate

YOAKUM - Joe Mireles had a bad week.

The Yoakum head basketball coach's team lost to Cuero on Tuesday preventing it from clinching second place in District 26-3A and forcing it into a three-team playoff to decide the district's two playoff berths.

The Bulldogs lost to Giddings on Friday and Smithville on Saturday, ending their season.

But Mireles, 42, experienced much worse after coming to Yoakum from Orange Grove as the junior high coordinator in 2009.

He was promoted to varsity offensive line coach in 2010 and became the head basketball coach this season.

There was the swelling in his body, the constant vomiting and the weekly trips to San Antonio to have his blood tested before he was told to get to DeTar Hospital in Victoria on Feb. 24 of last year because his kidney had failed.

There were the two surgeries and the tubes put in his chest and stomach for the dialysis machine he was hooked up to at home every day from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

There were the months of doing virtually nothing but venturing out of his house occasionally to watch his son, Joe, play baseball.

There were better moments, like the assurance he got from Yoakum athletic director Brent Kornegay, who Mireles had coached under at Orange Grove, that his job was secure and to take as long as he needed to get healthy.

There was the love and commitment of Sandra Mireles, his wife of 19 years, who took care of him and never hesitated to be tested as a kidney donor.

There was the community support from Gabe Adamek, the principal at the intermediate school where Sharon works as a teacher's aide, and high school receptionist Tanya Mann, who were among those volunteering to be tested as possible donors.

There was the day in May of last year when Joe and Sandra traveled to San Antonio and were tested together and the day a week or so later when they found out they were a match.

"It was exciting, but I was scared at the same time," Joe said. "I didn't want to put her through the pain that was fixing to happen. She said, 'let's do it.'"

Sandra was warned that the pain experienced by donors could be worse than the recipient, but she never wavered.

"When I heard that Mr. Adamek had agreed to be tested, I went to the car and cried," Sandra said. "I figured there was no way I was going to let anybody else do this. I figured I have to do that he's my husband. I just asked God to give me peace and from then on I was fine."

The transplant was done in San Antonio on Aug. 1 and a week later Joe and Sandra went home to recover.

"Every day, I was getting blood tested to make sure the kidney was not being rejected," Joe said. "That was a painful experience. I couldn't hardly walk for 2 to 2 1/2 weeks. I'd walk across the room and have to rest."

Sandra went back to work two weeks after the operation.

"They told me donors sometimes go through downfalls and depression," she said. "But I didn't notice any changes at all."

Joe's best day came midway through September when he returned to football practice.

"That was probably one of the most. ... I would say it was kind of like a breakdown moment because practice just completely stopped," he recalled. "Everybody started clapping and stuff."

Joe, Sharon and their son are back to their routine, or as normal as life can be after a life-altering experience.

Joe travels to DeTar Hospital every Thursday to have his blood checked and must go back to San Antonio for a checkup every couple of months.

"This not something anyone would think they would go through," Sandra said. "I've never seen anything like this happen until I saw him going through dialysis and pain every night. He would cry at times and I would cry. We're just blessed it happened like it did."

The Mireles are looking forward to getting back in the gym next season where the bond between them has forged.

The younger Mireles will return after averaging 12.5 points per game and converting a Class 3A best 99 3-pointers as a junior.

Sandra will be in the stands when the Bulldogs play like she has for every game this season.

"I love it," the elder Mireles said of coaching his son. "He kind of understands that he's going to get a little more pressure than the other kids. I treat all the kids like they're my own. The same way I talk to them, I'm going to talk to him."

"I like it," the younger Mireles said. "I feel like it's better than playing under someone you don't really know."

The Mireles family has gotten to know each other and the community much better over the past year.

They are thankful for the opportunity to look forward to seasons to come.

"My dad taught me to not give up on anything," the younger Mireles said. "He could have just given up, but he didn't."

Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or mforman@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.



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