Amber Joseph is an enthusiastic 29-year-old Savannah woman who loves life, is ecstatic about her career and absolutely adores both playing and coaching soccer. She also is a self-described Daddy's girl, who put everything aside last fall to save her father's life.
Amber donated one of her kidneys to her dad, John Joseph, of Peachtree City. Today, nearly eight months later, both father and daughter are doing great, said Amber who was cleared to play soccer a little more than two months after the surgery. Since then, she's been going full steam ahead.
The last couple of years haven't been easy for Amber mostly because of her father's deteriorating health. While still is his 40s, her Dad, who is now 57, was diagnosed with diabetes, she said. Then, three years ago, chronic kidney disease forced him to be on dialysis, which "he hated," Amber said.
Amber, meanwhile, was living in Savannah where she was blossoming as a recreation coordinator at Greenbriar Children's Center Inc.
In her spare time she also was playing soccer and helping coach an "elite" soccer team, called the Shockers, a group of athletically talented 13- and 14-year-old girls who must try out for team positions.
But, as her father's health began spiraling downward, so did key variables in Amber's life. Last fall, economic woes hit Greenbriar and Amber's full-time job was downgraded to part time. The timing couldn't have been worse because Amber was undergoing tests to see whether she could be a kidney donor.
All along her father didn't want Amber to be tested because he didn't want her health to be compromised, she said.
"I wanted to do it from day one," she said. As luck would have it, Amber's kidney was a near perfect match for her father. On Sept. 29, 2009, in a procedure at Atlanta's Piedmont Hospital, both Amber and her father underwent surgery.
"I know this sounds cliched and cheesy, but I never had more peace about anything in my life," she said. "I went into it thinking that if it (the kidney) gave him only three more days of life, it would have been worth it for me."
Savannah helps beloved coach
Back in Savannah, her soccer family rallied to help Amber.
On a part-time salary, Amber couldn't afford to stay in her apartment so Kat and Chris Miller, whose daughter plays soccer for Amber, invited her to move in with them. "Not too many people would've opened their home to a 29-year-old girl," she said in amazement.
But Amber has a huge fan base when it comes to soccer parents like the Millers, as well as Liz and John Thompson.
Says Liz: "Amber is an incredible role model for the girls as their coach, as well as a friend and mentor. As parents, we are lucky to have our daughters with Amber during all four seasons of soccer."
As Amber continued to regain her strength, her job at Greenbriar became full time again. Lillian Taylor, who is Amber's boss, describes her as an "excellent, enthusiastic" employee who is "very compassionate, very giving and very low key" about all that she does. "She just does it," Taylor said.
That Amber would donate a kidney didn't surprise her boss. "That's right in line with her character."
Soccer continues to be an important part of Amber's busy life. She plays on two adult teams and adores her work with the Shockers. During the summer, she coaches many of them on an indoor team affectionately called the Pink Chihuahuas.