WENTZVILLE, Mo. – A decorated war veteran and beloved football coach is getting a second chance at life.
Place is the head coach of the football team at Holt High School in Wentzville.
It’s a job he loves, but it’s one he’s had to sideline because of his health.
“I wasn’t able to be around for a few months. That was hard, probably one of the more difficult things for me,” he said.
In 2015, Place received grim news that both of his kidneys were failing. He had to go on dialysis at home for eight hours every day.
The diagnosis, he said, was harder to face than two tours of duty as a Marine Corps sniper.
“There’s a lot of stuff you can’t control in war, but at least I’m in charge a little bit. I can shoot back,” he said.
But six weeks ago at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Place had a hero rescue him.
“The best chance you have to get a transplant in a few months is to have a living donor available,” said Dr. Jason Wellen, Place’s transplant surgeon.
He received a new kidney from Alan Linden, a friend and former coworker who coaches football at Joplin (Mo.) High School. Place and Linden grew close when they met in 2011 and coached in Joplin together for a few seasons.
After the operation, Place said he could notice a difference immediately.
“I have ankles now. I didn’t have those for a couple of years,” Place joked.
But in all seriousness, Place said the biggest difference has been how much energy he now has every day.
“You don’t realize how sick you are until you have the transplant, and you start feeling the way you did years before,” he said.
Dr. Wellen added, “Ethan is exactly why we do transplants. He’s the kind of person who’s going to make the most of the gift.”
It’s a remarkable gift that Place said has given him a new lease on life.
“Don’t waste a day,” he said.
And now that he’s feeling better, Place isn’t just looking forward to coaching again. He said he can’t wait to go on a honeymoon with his wife and start a family.