RELEASE COUTESY OF SAINT ANSELM ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS
Saint Anselm rising senior Amanda Conger (Swanton, Vt.) tries to leads by example, both on and off the ice, through her kindness. During her 2018 summer internship with the Thunder Road International SpeedBowl outside Montpelier, Vt., she saw an opportunity to have an influence on someone else's life.
THUNDER ROAD PHOTO GALLERY (Photos Courtesy of Saint Anselm Athletics & Amanda Conger)
With a busy calendar of races, especially during the summer, Conger assisted in the offices and, on race days, assisted the Race Director with duties around the race track.
"I didn't know much about race cars, so I thought it would be a good experience to put myself out of my comfort zone and learn something new," said Conger. "I ended up really enjoying it and I met some pretty amazing people."
It was through her experience at Thunder Road that she got to know Cameron Ouellette, a native of Barre, Vt. who races at Thunder Road and was diagnosed with stage five kidney disease.
Conger was made aware of Ouellette's diagnosis through the racing community. After seeing the public appeals for a donor, Conger requested a packet of information, learning about the medical processes and how to confirm whether or not she was a match.
"While I was with the women's ice hockey team competing in Minnesota this past January, I received a call from the transplant team that said they wanted to continue with me," said Conger. "Once hockey was over in February through the beginning of May, I traveled home to have numerous tests done to ensure my compatibility."
Not only did Conger have to balance her education at Saint Anselm, she was also conducting an internship in Manchester and had a work study position at the College. Conger recognizes that handling her academics and working with the kidney transplant team was a challenge.
"It was challenging at times, but knowing, in the long run that I could save a life, made it all worth it."
The harvesting and transplant procedures took place in early June, 2019. Conger was in the operating room for north of six hours, but after the procedure Amanda's kidney immediately started working in Cameron's body and, to date, has been functioning well.
"I have always known that Amanda is a kind and caring person," said Saint Anselm Head Coach Kerstin Matthews, who enters her 12th season on the Hilltop as the head women's ice hockey coach. "Going through this experience with Amanda has taught me so much more about her. Amanda is everything you want in a captain, selfless, leads by example, works very hard, and is dedicated to her team."
Conger credits her outstanding support team, including her teammates, friends, coaches and professors, which helped her through the process. In particular, Conger appreciates the unwavering support of Coach Matthews. Her goal, Conger says, is to help her student-athletes graduate as a strong, confident women, someone who can achieve anything they set their minds to.
"I value the culture that Coach Matthews has created for our team," said Conger. "From the first day I told her about my decision, she has been nothing but supportive. I am thankful that I had a coach like her that stood behind me as I went through this process, all while finishing my junior season."
Matthews says that Conger is selfless, leads by example and is dedicated to the team and that her decision to donate a kidney to someone in need was not a surprise. She hopes that Amanda's story inspires others to become organ donors.
"From the first time Amanda and I talked about her possibly donating, I knew she was meant to do this," said Matthews. "Amanda is a strong-minded young woman who believes you should always do what is best to help others. This donation is just another example of how she lives her life."
The procedure will not affect Conger's preparation for the upcoming ice hockey season. She is prevented from lifting anything more than five pounds in the following two months, but after the period of rest, she will head into the new school year with no restrictions.
Matthews has no doubt that Amanda will be ready to go in her final collegiate season of women's ice hockey.
"She will be back on the ice, pushing herself and those around her to play every game as if it's your last," said Matthews.
"I am excited to lace up my skates for one last go-around as a Hawk on the Hilltop," concluded Conger.