Gordon Monson: Matt Bryant gives, Lance Beckert lives! How bad news sparked a life-saving reconnection of old friends

Beckert, a former Utah State basketball assistant coach, had been in search of a kidney donor

(Courtesy Lance Beckert) Former Utah State basketball assistant Lance Beckert had long been in need of a life-saving kidney transplant. When an old high school friend, Matt Bryant, right, read Beckert's story in The Tribune, he reached out to see if he might be a match.

Some people complain that news these days is too negative, too devastating, too sad, too catastrophic. But the very definition of news is that which is extraordinary, that which is out of the ordinary. So, as long as negative news is news, that means that the positive stuff is much more common, more prevalent, more expected.

If it’s not … well, here’s some news that flows the other way.

It begins with a man by the name of Lance Beckert and ends with another man, name of Matt Bryant, and further, is extended by way of the notion that there are good people in this world. Good people who need help and good people willing to give it.

If Beckert’s name sounds familiar, there are a couple of reasons for that.

The first is, he was a basketball assistant at Utah State under Stew Morrill for eight years, positively affecting the success of the Aggies program and the lives of almost everyone — players, coaches, trainers, managers, custodians, ushers, ticket-takers — involved with it.

The second is, Beckert was the subject of a column written and posted here in October, a column that told his story, from his basketball journey as a player and coach in Japan to his arrival in Logan to his work inside Aggies basketball to his evolution as a two-decade employee of the university to a human being fighting for his life, after doctors found that he’s suffering from kidney failure.

Whew. That’s a lot.

An individual who had spent so much of his professional life helping young people — in the Land of the Rising Sun and the Land of Logan — better understand not just the nuances of basketball, but also principles of good living, Beckert now was spending 12 hours a week on dialysis, sitting as his blood was pumped out of his body into a machine that cleansed it and then returned it to its former place. A function his kidneys no longer could do.

Beckert had two choices: He could endure the dialysis process, alongside the difficulties, fatigue and worry that comes via seeing and hanging onto one’s own mortality, while waiting and hoping and praying for a good-match donor or … he could die.

He chose the former, and now, a donor whose kidney is a match has stepped forward. Those familiar with basic anatomy know that human bodies typically have two kidneys and only one is necessary for healthy living.

When Bryant read about Beckert’s condition, and discovered that his own blood type and tissue matched Beckert’s, he did a notable, decent thing: He offered up his spare, and, in the promising process, is about to save Beckert’s life.

Talk about an assist.

“I told him, ‘If you want a kidney, I’ll give you one,’” Bryant says.

Beckert is scheduled to receive the kidney transplant on May 31, and doctors are optimistic that he can go on to live a normal existence, as can Bryant. It’s a procedure that is not completely rare, a number of such gifts being extended in hospitals from coast to coast. Still, voluntarily allowing surgeons to carve into your otherwise healthy body to extract an organ and plug it into someone else is … what’s the word, magnanimous? It’s not like lending someone a car or handing over a fistful of cash or doing somebody a simple solid.

You want a piece of me?

Yeah, it’s that, flipping new meaning into that usually menacing phrase.

The story is nicely shaded in more by the fact that Beckert and Bryant were best buddies back in their younger years. They were inseparable friends in high school, growing up together in Mesa, Ariz., nearly four decades ago.

“We did a lot of stupid things together,” Bryant says.

“Yes, we did,” says Beckert. “We thought we were invincible back then.”

Invincibility fades as the years blow by.

As is often the case in busy individual existences, they lost track of each other through time — Beckert moving to Japan to coach and later to Cache Valley, and Bryant heading off to New Mexico and settling in Colorado. Then, Beckert got sick. He says he posted on Facebook The Tribune column written about him and more about his situation. He says the Intermountain transplant team was “inundated” with applications for possible donors.

“They got 35 of them,” he says. “Many of them said they saw the article. I’m thankful.”

Bryant took note of Beckert’s post. And he was moved to action.

Cool. Cool. Cool.

“You do what you have to do,” Bryant says. “I just want to see Lance being Lance again.”

Here’s the thing, though: Bryant didn’t have to do anything. He chose to do something, And, gloriously enough, he was what physicians call a “super match,” lining up almost perfectly with his friend’s body type.

“I bawled when I found out about it,” Beckert says. “I bawled.”

It is getting dusty in here.

I’m not going to lie. This feels good. Every once in a long, long, long while, it’s pretty sweet to make a small difference in the lives of others, among all the games played and analyzed, the sports strategies discussed, the issues debated and the words written. Not taking any kind of bow here, just thrilled that a good man like Mr. Beckert can be reconnected and helped out and given new life by a good man like Mr. Bryant.

Among all the pain and trouble in our country, on the planet, these sorts of folks do exist. Kindness and caring and love exist. Benevolence exists, as does appreciation.

Says Beckert: “How do I say thank you?”

If that’s news, then so be it. Here’s to hoping that it’s not, that it’s like reporting that mountains are tall, oceans are deep, grass is green, the sky is blue, and water is wet.

Headline: Matt Bryant gives, Lance Beckert lives!

And the world goes round and round.

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