When you think about the pressures that face a football coach at the University of Notre Dame, grueling practices and readying a team for the season come to mind.
But for the man who coached Notre Dame's Safeties last year, there was a massive battle off the field and it could have taken his life.
Bob Elliott's kidneys had been failing for years but he had no symptoms.
To watch him on the practice field last year you wouldn't know that Elliott was undergoing kidney dialysis and waiting for a kidney transplant.
He actually found out ten years ago, while coaching in San Diego, that his kidney's were not working properly. His response to the diagnosis, "I was shocked."
Especially because just four years earlier, while coaching at Iowa State, Elliott had undergone a bone marrow transplant after he was diagnosed with a form of leukemia.
Doctors told him his blood pressure was the culprit for his kidney disease which his Nephrologist in the South Bend area, Dr. James Porile says is not surprising. "The two most common causes of kidney failure in the United States are diabetes and hypertension."
The problem says Dr. Porile is that with kidney disease there are rarely symptoms to tip a patient off.
"Most people with kidney disease get picked up with blood work, urinalysis or imaging tests."
After Bob's initial diagnosis in San Diego, doctors treated his blood pressure for medication and told him his kidneys might not get any worse.
Then, just as he was getting ready to take the job at Notre Dame he got devastating news during a routine physical exam. "They found at that point that my kidney function had dropped significantly and was in a dangerous area."
Elliott was concerned about having just accepted the Notre Dame job but says Coach Brian Kelly couldn't have bee more supportive. Bob says, "He didn't even blink an eye and said, 'We'll get through it.' "
With his first season with the Irish ahead, Elliott and Dr. Porile came up with a game plan that included dialysis to get the coach through the football season. Even when he was on the road with the team, in hotels, including the trip to Ireland in September to take on Navy, Elliott was able to perform his own dialysis.
He explained how it worked: "I had a tube in my stomach and then I would hook up at night to a machine that would do the exchance of the fluids. During the daytime, at noon, I would do a manual session of dialysis. I would do dialysis in the parking lot of a high school or in a Wendy's or a shopping mall. So, I mean, it was pretty interesting stuff."
And in keeping with the plan he and Dr. Porile made, just four months ago in February, Elliott's sister donated a kidney to her brother.
Dr. Porile says it was perfect timing, "He is very fortunate to hae a family member who stepped up to serve as a donor and we got him through football season and then he got his kidney transplant the month after the National Championship game.
Today Bob is feeling great, but he stresses anyone with blood pressure issues or diabetes need annual checkups. "Had I not been checked regularly they wouldn't have found it and by the time I got to Dr. Porile I might have been in serious, serious condition."
With dialysis and a transplant now behind him, Coach Elliott says he is taking his meds and following doctor's orders and can't wait to get back to coaching and getting his Irish Safeties for another season of Fighting Irish Football.
And he is a big advocate for free screening going on this weekend in South Bend.
If you suffer from high blood pressure or diabetes both the coach and Dr. Porile urge you to take advantage of the screening.
It's being sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation.
Free Kidney Screening
Saturday, June 22
St. Joseph Health Coalition
2806 Lincoln Way West
South Bend, IN 46628