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LOVE FOR LILY: Heart needed for newborn of VCSU coach

Lily Montgomery, the daughter of Valley City State University men's basketball coach Ryan Montgomery, is pictured in late December, two days before the nearly 4-month-old child fell ill. Photo courtesy Ryan Montgomery

Valley City State University men's basketball coach Ryan Montgomery's world is nearly 400 miles away.

His 5-month-old daughter, Lily, and his wife, Trista, are at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where Lily's heart needs assistance to keep beating. Lily has been diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, which was complicated by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Lily fell ill on New Year's night, nearly four months after her Sept. 3 birthday. The Montgomerys' first child is currently on a waiting list to receive a new heart.

"Lily is completely like herself," Ryan Montgomery said in a telephone interview Friday afternoon. "Except she has blood running in and out of her body through some tubes and a pump.

"She knows nothing different right now. She doesn't know anything is happening."

Lily underwent a procedure two weeks ago in order for doctors to implant a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) into her heart to keep it functioning. Now all the Montgomerys can do is wait until a donor becomes available.

"We're at what they call 'the bridge' to get to the final destination," Ryan said. "It could happen tonight, or it could happen a year from now."

Coach Montgomery is back directing the Vikings after time away to be with Lily and his family. Valley City State (12-15) is in the midst of a four-game winning streak, with three of those victories coming since Montgomery's return.

"I'm halfway home. That's the best way I can describe it," Montgomery said. "It's good to be back in Valley City and coaching, but it's also bittersweet because I know we're not all the way home yet."

The Vikings face 23rd-ranked University of Jamestown (19-7) tomorrow at 5 p.m. at Harold Newman Arena. The two schools—longtime rivals—are always quick to be at the back of the other in times of need.

"I can't imagine what they (the Montgomerys) are going through," said University of Jamestown athletics director Sean Johnson.

University of Jamestown will be selling "Love 4 Lily" bracelets for $10 in support of Lily during tonight's basketball doubleheader against Bellevue University at Newman Arena. A GoFundMe page has been setup for Lily and the Montgomerys at www.GoFundMe.com, keyword search: Love for Lily.

"Being 35 miles apart, we interact with Valley City State so much," Johnson said. "Obviously, we both want to win when we step across the lines, but we have a shared interested. We want what's best for our student-athletes, and when the games are over we shake hands and get along and that's what a good rivalry is about."

Montgomery, a Minnesota native, said he and has family have been overwhelmed by area support. Montgomery is in his second season as head coach of the Vikings.

"I don't know if we could have been in a better area, or a better community, than where we are right now," Montgomery said. "The support from everyone has just been phenomenal. It overwhelms you, to tell you the truth.

"The only way we know how to repay everyone is to eventually put Lily in front of people. Hopefully she'll be happy and healthy and people can see what their support gave back."

Michael Savaloja

Hometown: Churchs Ferry, N.D.; College: North Dakota

A recipient of the NDHSCA Award of Merit, Savaloja has been reporting sports for The Sun since 2008.

Follow on Twitter: @MichaelSavaloja

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