Knoxville kidney patient draws inspiration from Pat Summitt

KNOXVILLE (WATE)- “Aspire to inspire” is the motto for Steve Winfree, a stage four kidney patient who says he wants what he’s learned through a decade of treatment to be a lesson for others.

“When you have 100,000 people in Neyland Stadium on Saturday in the Fall.. you have people from different social status, people from different political status, religious status. but during that four hours everybody is cheering, everybody is high-fiving, everybody likes each other.” said Winfree.

He uses the sports metaphor to explain why his lesson with this chronic disease isn’t limited to his specific situation. He says it doesn’t matter how “minor” or “major” a problem may seem– when groups come together and understand, it can be positive.

In 2003, Winfree transferred from Maryville college to the University of Tennessee when he was first diagnosed with kidney failure. At UT he got the chance to continue playing basketball under Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols.

“I remember the first time that Coach Summit came into the gym. It was almost like everything stopped. She commanded such respect and she was such a powerful human being. I remember my heart skipping a beat because I was thinking this was one of the most influential women in the history of sports, not just women’s sports, but the history of sports.” said Winfree.

He was a practice player for the Lady Vols and says when everybody else told him his basketball career was over, Summitt gave him the chance to continue.

Winfree said, “What she doesn’t realize she did for me is continue playing the game I love.”

For more information on Winfree’s yet-to-be-published book, “Superman Uses Insulin and Can’t Afford It Either” visit his website.

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