When Duwayne Weathers started feeling sick at the end of his date night with wife Alisha three years ago, he had no idea he was suffering from a blood disorder.
But that night, after his vision blurred and he almost entered a diabetic coma with a low blood sugar level, he was diagnosed with renal failure, a condition where the kidneys are unable to properly process waste from the blood. One year later, in August 2012, he learned the condition was even more serious. Duwayne had entered end-phase renal failure, which meant he was immediately put on dialysis and was in need of a new kidney.
He has been going through four-hour dialysis treatments about three times a week since 2012. The treatments have taken a toll on the 41-year-old both physically and in his career. Duwayne has about 20 years of experience as a chef, including jobs at Harrah's Casino and as a kitchen manager at the Country Club of Paducah for about 10 years. With treatments, however, Duwayne is now too exhausted to cook at home, and the family depends on his disability checks while Alisha is trying to find a job. She said it's hard to find work when she knows she must be available at any time to help her husband.
Alisha drives Duwayne from Paducah to Metropolis for the treatment, and the couple, who have three sons, travel to Nashville for other appointments and treatments.
But treatments won't solve Duwayne's need for a kidney. The couple has been told that because of his rare blood type, O negative, it could take between three to five years to find a donor.
Recently though, the couple received good news: After waiting a year, Duwayne made the Vanderbilt University Medical Center transplant list.
The idea of waiting three to five years, however, still bothered Alisha Weathers.
"I thought 'that's not settling well with me,'" she said. "I'm going to reach out on a limb here and go to social media."
So Alisha went to Facebook and the Paducah classifieds, where she posted the narrative situation of Duwayne's circumstance. Before his illness, Duwayne was able to enjoy some of his favorite activities, including hiking, fishing, bowling and visiting the beach. The disorder halted his hopes of becoming a professional bowler and has also diminished the time he can spend with his kids.
Alisha proposed in her social media post that anyone who thought about being a living donor and wanted to know more about donating a kidney could contact her directly.
She received five calls within 24 hours. Two of those interested individuals have already started the first phase to find out if they are a good match for Weathers.
The possible donors have to go through extensive tests to make sure tissues match, as well as physicals and X-ray exams to ensure they're in excellent health, she said.
The next step in helping her husband get a new kidney is where the community comes into play.
The family, with the help of their National Foundation for Transplants coordinator, is planning a barbecue dinner July 12 at Paducah's Noble Park to serve as a fundraiser to help the potential donors with travel expenses. Both of the possible donors are from the Paducah area, but Alisha said she wants to ensure all of their costs for pre-transplant testing and travel are covered.
The family will be meeting the possible donors for the first time at the event.
While the funds raised from the dinner will help with the donors' travel expenses, any available funds will also help the family. The transplant itself can cost about $250,000, and the family has also struggled in traveling for dialysis treatments three times a week. Expensive post-transplant medications, which Alisha said are vital to her husband's recovery, are also not covered by health insurance.
In the meantime, she is still spreading the word that anyone who thinks they may be a match is encouraged to find out. Although she is excited about the possible matches, she wants to keep getting the word out in case something doesn't work out.
"The (donors) that have already started the process ... I told them 'if you see me posting, please don't feel like I don't want to have your kidney.'"
Once a transplant is complete, Alisha said her husband can return to full health.
"It will bring his health back to where he was before, possibly better, because there's no telling how long he was sick before," she said. "He will be healthy until the kidney decides it wants to stop working."
While Alisha is ready for her husband's struggle to be over, she said it has brought them even closer.
"I think the illness has helped us to grow together as couple. We've learned to lean on each other more than before," she said.
The fundraiser for the Weathers family and possible donors is set for 2 to 6 p.m. July 12 at Shelter 16 at Noble Park. Visitors can donate any amount per plate. Starnes BBQ, Kroger, Pugh's Midway, Tri-State Games by Mike Cornwell, a local snow cone vendor and other local businesses are donating to the fundraiser.
Contact Lauren Duncan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8692 or follow @laurenpduncan on Twitter.
Deena and Jim posted on: Monday, June 23, 2014 12:54 PM
Alisha and Duwayne you are both in my prayers! Jim and I could neither one donate due to past cancers but we pray you do get your kidney as soon as possible! As I said, you are both in our prayers!
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