MILWAUKEE — About a dozen years after receiving a second chance at life and becoming an advocate for organ donation, a familiar face to Marquette University basketball fans is fighting a new battle.
At the age of 50, Trey Schwab finds it easy to take stock of his life.
“It’s been really full. My goal growing up when I was a young coach — I wanted to coach in the NBA and I got there at a really young age, still in my 20s. Moved to Marquette, and when you’re a college coach, your goal is always to get to the Final Four and win a national championship. We got half of that done,” Schwab said.
And then there’s the next entry on his resume — work with the UW Hospitals Organ and Tissue Donation program — work that helped lead to the state of Wisconsin establishing a donor registry in 2010.
“We actually had to put together a multi-year plan and strategy. Took us about three years to get to game day, so to speak. It was the longest scouting report of our lives,” Schwab said.
Schwab was on MU’s basketball staff in 2001 when he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and determined to be in need of a double lung transplant himself. He stayed around the team and persevered until he received his transplant in 2004. In 2005, he got out of basketball for the job in Madison, motivated by his own experience.
“The first 10 years were great. I really had no health issues. My lungs have been getting rejected by my body for close to two years now, and a lot of damage is done. I’m back on oxygen. So we’re in the process right now of trying to get back on the transplant waiting list and see if maybe I can get another shot,” Schwab said.
A "retransplant" is an extremely difficult surgery -- meaning Schwab is a long shot even to get back on a transplant list. He and Donate Life Wisconsin have worked tirelessly to increase awareness regarding organ donation and have teamed up with the DMV to make the process much easier than it had been.
As he did in basketball, Schwab revels in doing the job without grabbing the spotlight, but he's heard from families who have said his story is why they became involved in organ donation.
And now, for the second time, he's in need.
"It's tough. But like I said, I've had 10 great years. Like I've told people, if this all ended tomorrow, or I don't wake up in the morning, I've had a great life. I've been able to do a lot of things. I've packed a lot into 50 years. But like all of us, you'd like to stretch it out a little further. I'm just focused on doing everything I can to stay strong. We've got a bike right here in the middle of the living room. I'm riding the bike a couple of times a day. Hopefully get back on the list and be ready to go if and when I get the call again," Schwab said.
All he can do right now is take a deep breath and wait.
Schwab stays in touch with the coaches he worked with at MU and eagerly anticipates turning 51 years old in April. Given his firsthand experiences, he's particularly supportive of Wisconsin's organ donation program.
CLICK HERE to learn more about Donate Life Wisconsin.
CLICK HERE to add your name to Wisconsin's Organ Donor Registry.