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Gift that keeps giving: Duquettes blessed by recovery

Eleven-year-old Lindsey thriving a year after receiving kidney transplant from father

Watching the catcher's feeble attempts to handle the incoming pitches, the baseball evaluator in Jim Duquette cringed.

But the dad in him was beaming.

For here was Jim's 11-year-old daughter, Lindsey, suited up as a catcher for the Tigers, her youth softball team. And while her talent behind the dish was, uh, suspect ("You have to put 'catcher' in quotes," Jim would say later, "because she wasn't catching the ball so much as just blocking it and keeping it from hitting the umpire") her ability to take the field at all was a blessing.

It has been one year since Duquette, the former Mets general manager and current analyst for and MLB Network Radio, donated the kidney that saved his daughter's life. And with Father's Day approaching and the daddy-daughter bond stronger than ever, Jim is pleased to report that Lindsey is doing exceptionally well.

"The doctors are very, very pleased with how she's responded to the surgery," Duquette said. "I think there's always going to be a level of concern and monitoring of the transplant, but as long as you're taking your meds and you have your fluids, a lot of the risk from the surgery is behind us."

There is so much about Lindsey's nearly lifelong ordeal with a serious kidney disorder that the Duquettes are happy to put behind them. The countless nights Lindsey spent in intensive care. The high blood pressure and the blood clots. The chemotherapy and protein and steroid injections that futilely attempted to save her native kidneys. The full year she lived without kidneys, hooking up to a dialysis machine twice a day and taking human-growth hormone shots.

All of these things prevented Lindsey from getting to be a carefree kid. So now, these little moments -- Lindsey crouching behind the plate or riding the bus home from school or walking the dog -- mean so much.

Is Lindsey's life a lot different now?

"I don't feel that way," she said. "But ... sometimes when I think about it, I guess I do."

Lindsey's dad is a widely respected member of the Major League Baseball community, and many applauded what he did for his daughter. Jim and Lindsey were honored at NephCure's "Countdown to a Cure" fundraising dinner and at the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America annual gala. At the latter, Lindsey got to meet David Price, R.A. Dickey and Buster Posey, but she was the real star of the show. She gave a speech to the event's 1,300 attendees and even signed an autograph for a guy who has signed plenty of autographs of his own.

"We were sitting next to Phil Niekro," Jim said, "and he goes, 'Lindsey, can you sign my program please?' She goes, 'Oh yeah, sure.' Then she turns to me and goes, 'Who is he?'"

The salutations were nice, but Jim will tell you he just did what any loving dad would do. And his daily reward is his daughter's ability to enjoy a life fully lived.

On the anniversary of the surgery last week, the Duquettes celebrated with an ice cream cake decorated with a drawing of a kidney. Lindsey made sure not to tell her parents about the celebratory cupcake her teacher had given her earlier in the day until after she ate her cake.

"You think about where we were a year ago or two years or three years ago, and you're like, 'Holy smokes, I can't believe we've gotten to this point,'" Jim said. "I took video of her playing catcher and playing it back, it made me crack up watching it. Little things like that, maybe I took for granted with my first two kids, but I've been able to watch more carefully and a little closer with Lindsey."

Lindsey proudly proclaims she now has "more energy than my older brother [Matthew] and sister [Lauren]." She's caught up on quite a bit of the school time she missed as a result of her medical ordeal and will be graduating elementary school with her fifth-grade class Friday.

"Somebody said we have to walk down an aisle with a boy," she said. "But some people said we don't, so I don't really know."

Better to be worried about a bout with cooties than focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), the disease Lindsey was diagnosed with in 2008. Though Lindsey is still at risk for an FSGS attack on her new kidney, every day removed from surgery is a major step forward, and she is free to instead focus on the joys of life.

One of her newfound joys is softball, and she asked her dad a few weeks ago if she could play catcher.

"I'm like, 'You've got to be kidding me,'" Jim said. "I thought there was no chance. But just on a whim, I asked her doctor. He said if she has her kidney guard, she could pull it off."

Sure enough, Lindsey talked her coach into letting her catch at the Tigers' next game. She "caught" two innings, and Jim estimated that maybe one out of every five pitches found her glove. But she made it through.

"That," Duquette said, "was more nerve-wracking than anything else the last four or five years!"

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.