While 8-year-old Noah Luptak skated at center ice and his 5-year-old sister McKenna made friends with Missouri Mavericks mascot Mac, their mom and dad renewed their vows at the Independence Events Center in front of the 10th sellout crowd of the season.
As part of a Mavericks promotion, couples were invited to share their love story and renew their vows on the ice between the first and second periods of Saturday night's 4-3 win over the Wichita Thunder. James and Sarah Luptak's love story was one that brought many in the crowd of 5,800 to tears.
Here it is, in James' own words in the entry for the contest:
“When two people get married, they do it because they love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together. I remember that day like it was yesterday, when on July 20, 2002, Sarah and I were married in Independence. Like any other couple, we shared our dreams with each other. Things like having kids, a house, traveling and just enjoying life together. We had our first child in the spring of 2005, what a glorious moment. Life together was going in the right direction.
“Then suddenly, life changed. In late 2005, while undergoing a routine medical checkup, doctors noticed that my kidney function had decreased significantly. I was immediately referred to a kidney specialist where my kidney function was monitored much closer and I was put on different medications in an attempt to slow the loss of function. It was at this point that Sarah and I realized that our lives as we knew them were about to change.
“Although my kidney health was slowly declining, Sarah and I decided to live for today and not live for what may or may not happen. In mid-2008, we welcomed our second child into the world. Other than the kidney issue, life together could not have been better. The next few years were wonderful. As a family, we built many memories together, watching our children grow up, living the American dream.
“Just like any dream, at some point you wake up. In 2010, my son was rushed to the hospital and ended up needing an appendectomy. The next year, I was told that my kidney function had declined to the point that I was going to need to start thinking about dialysis and transplant. By late spring of 2012, my kidney function had further declined and I was put on the transplant waiting list. The series of events that followed were incredible.
“When the time came to begin looking for living donors, without hesitation, the person who had become my best friend and wife, the mother of my beautiful children, immediately decided that she would see if she could help and was tested as a possible match. After many tests, incredibly, we were a perfect match; one that the doctors said was nearly “perfect.” I felt at that time, we were brought together for a reason beyond all comprehension. We were truly meant to be together. A date for transplant was set for early August, and I can say without a doubt, I have never felt so overwhelmed emotionally in my entire life.”
They spent their 10th wedding anniversary preparing for surgery. On Aug. 2, 2012, Sarah underwent her surgery. An hour later, James was under the surgeon's knife.
“To have your wife truly save your life is a feeling of love and admiration that one cannot truly comprehend until you experience it for yourself,” said James, an account manager for a security company.
Tears covered his face throughout the ceremony, while Sarah, a first grade teacher at Spring Branch Elementary School in Independence, did her best to keep it together.
“What wife wouldn't do what I did, if she truly loves her husband?” she asked. “I didn't even need to think about. When I found out I was a perfect match, I just asked, 'When can we do the surgery?'”
But the mischievous side of Sarah emerged, as she added, “But now, I can blackmail him any time I want. It's like, 'Hey, remember me?'”
The couple received a $2,500 prize package from Kennedy's Jewelers in Blue Springs.