Jul 15, 2013
Edenton, N.C. — There is an undeniable repetition involved when it comes to tennis practice. For more than three decades, Allen Hornthal has lived the familiar routine as the head tennis coach at Holmes High School in Edenton.
“People say, ‘why do it? What do you get out of it?” Hornthal said. “Because it’s such a part of my life.”
The fact that it is still part of his life is the remarkable part. Last year, Hornthal needed an oxygen tank and a scooter just to get around.
“I had been on oxygen 24-7,” Hornthal described. “Last year I coached with the oxygen.”
In February, at Duke Hospital, Hornthal received a long-awaited lung transplant – five years after his diagnosis for pulmonary fibrosis.
“I went eight years to Chapel Hill,” Hornthal joked “It would have been impossible to convert me to being a Duke fan, but they have done a pretty good job of it.”
After several months of rehabilitation in Durham, Hornthal was greeted with an unexpected homecoming.
“It was kind of emotional because he was gone for so long and we were so excited to see him,” said tennis player Ellie Wichard.
“They knew we were coming, and the road to our house, they had signs and everything,” Hornthal recounted about seeing his players welcoming him home. “It was mind-boggling.”
As soon as he was able, Hornthal returned to the court – this time with no oxygen. He came equipped with two good lungs and a racquet.
“I think it’s really inspiring for our team because we see Dr. Hornthal and he wants us to play our hardest, he wants us to put it all out on the court,” said player Molly High.
“It’s a good carrot to have because I get so much out of it,” Hornthal said.