Friday, October 27, 2017

Yet ANOTHER Advantage of Kidney Transplants – Making New Friends!

My budding bud, Wayne: Sox and Tigers fans, united by kidneys!
At this age I'm not accustomed to getting all giddy over the making of a new friend. That's typically the province of grade-school boys at their first Cub Scout meeting. However, I recently forged a new acquaintance, and I've got to tell you: I'm pretty jazzed about it.

Meet Wayne Meyer II (says Jimmy McFarlin III), baseball coach for small-town Le Roy Junior/Senior High School ("Home of the Panthers") about a half-hour drive from where I live. Now, if Wayne was only a baseball coach and former player, that surely would be enough to curry my excitement: as anyone who knows me will attest, I am an absolute geekazoid when it comes to America's (First, Last and Always) Pastime. For my birthday in June, the only present I really asked for – and received, thankfully – was the commemorative bobblehead of Detroit Tigers righthander Michael Fulmer, the 2016 American League Rookie of the Year. 

What does that say about me?

Anyway, I feel pretty confident that Wayne and I will have a lot to talk about going forward, which is important after the getting-to-know-you period has subsided. But here's the kicker: this tall, extremely healthy-looking man is, like me, a kidney transplant recipient!

Small (Wayne's) World, ain't it?

He and I met in the usual way: standing in line for tests at a hospital laboratory office. I was in line behind Wayne, and regardless of what all those signs say about patient privacy and HIPAA regulations, you cannot possibly whisper softly enough at the check-in desk to avoid being overheard by everyone in a small waiting room. 

He answered all the same medical questions I have been asked at that desk at least once a month for the last six years. I was so familiar with them, I knew the basics of Wayne's condition before he ever turned around to face me.

"How long ago was your transplant?" I asked him.

Came to find out he was a "newbie." He underwent successful transplant surgery on Dec. 3, 2016, and, like I did the first year or so, has to come to the hospital every week for blood tests. The transplant team wants to make sure your foreign "tenant" is making itself comfortable in its new home. For Wayne, that means making the 70-mile round trip from Le Roy every seven days. 

I learned that not only do we share the same local nephrologist, the wise and compassionate Dr. Abdel-Moneim Attia, but we had our surgeries at the same hospital, Barnes-Jewish in St. Louis. We were like renal relatives! Kidney cousins! Since our lab schedules were certain to dovetail, I invited him out to coffee at some later date. To my great delight, he accepted.
My favorite birthday gift. Is something wrong with me?

Weeks later, at an Einstein Bagels restaurant in the shadow of the hospital, Wayne and I got better acquainted. It's fascinating to me how many different ways people come to the point of needing a kidney transplant. In his case, he was actually born with only one kidney! 

Wayne said he was never made aware of it – and since he was a young, healthy, athletic fellow, who would think to look? – until his overworked organ began wearing out. "I had the kidney of a 90-year-old man," he told me.

In 2015, Old Man Kidney decided it had labored long enough. "I started feeling sick," he recalls. "I powered through the end of the school year, and the baseball season, of course, but my feet started to swell. My energy went way down." By the time his wife, Victoria, finally convinced him to go to the hospital, "I was struggling," he admits. "I needed to know what was going on, but I was scared to find out."

Not only did Attia calm and encourage him, but he also made a prediction. "Dr. Attia said from the get-go, 'a year and a half, two years,'" until he received a transplant, Wayne says, "but everything from Barnes-Jewish said it was going to be at least a three- to four-year wait. But Dr. Attia knew what he was doing. He called it from the first time he met me when I was hospitalized."

Wayne spent that year-and-a-half wait on peritoneal dialysis – just like me! – and dialyzed at home with his wife's valiant assistance. "The quality of life did not change much at all," he says. "That's what made the transition so much easier." 

Beyond the steadfast support of Victoria and their two sons, Trey and Colin, the outpouring of concern and care from his tiny town was overwhelming, he says. Clearly, LeRoy adores its high school baseball coach and his family. 

"Some guys at school organized fundraisers to help cover medical expenses," Wayne says. "It seemed like everybody knew about it. I still get people from around town, even other towns, asking me how I'm doing. People who I had no idea knew anything."

And how is he doing? "I feel great," he beams. "Never had a sick day because of it. My energy level is great, though I'm not in shape like I used to be."

None of us are, Coach. Although I'll bet his superior conditioning played a big part in his recovery and present state of health.

His health and happiness come tinged with just a touch of regret, however. Wayne doesn't know who his kidney donor was, but "I do know the kidney was supposed to go to a family member, and for whatever reason it didn't work out," he says. "It's an odd feeling, knowing that it was designated for someone within the donor's family and I ended up getting it. It's kind of a touchy situation. It's one of those cases where you're excited, but you still feel bad." 

Of course, we also talked a lot of baseball. He is a Chicago White Sox fan, but he's such a nice guy that I'm willing to forgive that misguided life decision.

Wayne has invited me to speak to his English class, which will happen in the very near future. I'm so excited! I love talking to young people about the power and passion words can carry, and the remarkable career opportunities I've enjoyed from being able to write good.

Uh, well, I mean. (Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.)

I think the hardest part will be not spending the entire class time talking about our transplants. For both Mr. Meyer and me, it's been an education.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

She's His Wife, and Now She's His Life: A Transplant Tale in Texas

After Sept. 14, Angela and Josh Will be Even Closer Than in This Photo Booth.
It is by no means a stretch of the imagination to say that today – Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017 – is the most important day in the marriage of Angela DeLa Bullard and Josh Bailey. More important, even, than their wedding day.

A life-changing day.

In all likelihood, a life saving day.

For today is the day that Angela is donating one of her kidneys to her beloved husband in Austin, Texas. Josh has experienced the miracle of a kidney transplant once before, but last November he received the soul-crushing report that his adopted organ from 13 years ago was functioning at only about 12 percent of capacity, and dropping fast. (Did you know that your kidneys, marvelous examples of God's handiwork that they are, still can serve your body quite adequately at 60 percent?)

Since Thanksgiving of last year, Josh has been on dialysis three times a week while continuing to work and lead a relatively normal life. And believe me, folks, that ain't easy.

After months of uncertainty trying to coordinate insurance and other issues, last April the couple began their search for a new donor. And just two months later, they received the miraculous news that  Angela was a match!

Now this is a rare and wonderful thing indeed, and as any believer would tell you, no coincidence or phenomenal stroke of luck. The Almighty's hand is clearly doing its thing here.

When my time came to look for a donor, my wife, Karen, refused to get tested. She employed logic over love. "If I get tested and I'm a match," she reasoned, "who's going to take care of you? I couldn't. We'd both be laid up recovering at the same time."

Josh, Angela, and Not the Family Pet. 
That's the challenge facing Josh and Angela. "Our original plan was that I would continue to work and be a caregiver for Josh during the first steps of his recovery, but now we will be traveling that path together," she writes. "I am beyond willing to do anything within my ability to aid in making my best friend and partner feel better. As the saying goes, however, time is money."

So they established a Go Fund Me page to help defray the medical bills and living expenses that are sure to mount while they recuperate. Their modest goal was $1,200, just to get them through a month or so, but in this remarkable period of America's generosity that figure has more than doubled and continues to grow. Amazing.
I'm making a donation today. I invite you to join me, but even if you are not so inclined, please consider sharing this post with your social media circles. Here's the link for you to make a contribution: https://www.gofundme.com/joshandangela

Now, I have never met Angela and Josh. Prior to today, I couldn't have picked them out of a photo array. However, we have a friend in common: Josh went to college with my former churchmate and recently repatriated Texan, Dr. Frank Engel. Frank is one of the finest men currently walking the earth, and if he likes Josh and Angela, then so do I.

"You'll notice they only asked for one month's expenses, and they've surpassed that," Frank says. "It helps when you're a swell guy."

And besides, I kind of know how he feels.

God bless you both.

UPDATE: On Sept. 23, 2017, Matt Bailey posted to Facebook: "We are happy to report that 10 days after surgery, Angela and I are back home. We passed the critical phase of our recovery and were released from the hospital with flying colors!

"We both have a long road of healing in front of us, but we're out to the danger zone and feeling better every day. Your thoughts and support had a direct impact on easing our stress during this time We are eternally grateful!"

Monday, January 2, 2017

Finally – A Chance for Some Big (Kidney) Ballin' in Detroit

Yes, yes, I realize – I'm the only man in the photo. But I was willing to make the sacrifice for such a great cause!

Recently I had the opportunity to fulfill a long-held dream. I can't exactly say it was a "bucket list" item, but since I likely would have kicked the bucket long ago without the information and support of agencies like the Kidney Foundation of Michigan, it was a memory I'll cherish forever.









silent auction on cell phone.