Kidney transplant enables Auburn fan to enjoy game in Pasadena

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 5, 2014 

From left, Allen Taber, Sandra Taber, Laura Taber and Clay Taber. Clay was diagnosed with a rare disease in 2010, causing him to miss home Auburn games for the first time since he was a toddler. He is in Pasadena, Calif., this week, with his family and a new kidney, to watch Auburn vie for the national title.

SPECIAL TO THE LEDGER-ENQUIRER

PASADENA, Calif. -- What a difference three years can make.

Just ask Clay Taber.

Clay, his wife, Laura, and his parents, Allen and Sandra, are in sunny -- and warm -- California getting ready for today's BCS championship game between Auburn and Florida State in the Rose Bowl.

An Auburn graduate and season-ticket holder since he was 2 -- that is not a typo -- Taber is happy for many reasons, not the least of which is he is healthy again.

Clay was diagnosed in the fall of 2010 with Goodpasture's Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder characterized by kidney disease and lung hemorrhage. No exact cause is known for Goodpasture's disease, which makes the body's immune system fight normal tissues by creating antibodies that attack the lungs and kidneys.

On Jan. 10, 2012, Clay got the greatest of gifts, a kidney transplant that was needed due to this rare disease that was shutting down his kidneys. Emory University Hospital nurse Allison Batson contributed the organ.

So, what does all of this have to do with Auburn football? Plenty.

Clay became ill as Auburn was making a run to an unlikely national title. He spent much of the season in a hospital room and, at 23 years old, he missed his first Auburn home games since he was a toddler.

When Auburn reached the BCS title game in Glendale, Ariz., that year, Clay was stabilized and his parents made the decision to go. Clay's kidneys were in bad shape, and he was having dialysis three times a week.

"We arranged an early-morning dialysis treatment the morning of the game." said Allen, a retired Columbus banking executive with SunTrust.

When the nearly four-hour process was done, they picked Clay up at the clinic and headed to the University of Phoenix Stadium.

"Everybody else was tailgating and I just crawled in the back seat of the car and took a nap," Clay said.

Allen remembers it well.

"(Dialysis) can be tiring," Allen said. "It was what he had to do to be able to go to the game."

A year after Auburn's championship win over Oregon, Clay got his new kidney.

He has since married his sweetheart, Laura Calhoun.

And they are all in the Los Angeles area this week for the game.

This time he probably won't be forced to take a pregame nap.

"This time there are no restrictions," Clay said. "I am back to my normal self."

Being back at a national championship game with Clay is something that Allen has difficulty describing.

"This time he's well," Allen said before a Sunday sight-seeing trip. "I almost can't put that into words."

Clay and Laura live in Auburn, but he makes monthly trips to Emory in Atlanta. During that process, he has become close friends with Batson and her family.

"Over the Christmas, we went to Atlanta and all of us went to see 'The Hunger Games,'" Clay said.

But this week, the only game is Auburn football.

"We are really looking forward to this," Clay said.

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