BY WILL PINKSTON
Duwayne “Bubba” Weathers hasn’t set foot on the polished wood lanes of a bowling alley in almost a year, but it’s not for a lack of want.
Participating in his bowling league for nearly a decade with dreams of potentially making it to the professional scene, Weathers, 40, was used to the pressures of making the strike — after all, he was a 221-average bowler.
The West Paducah man is in a fight for his life as end stage renal disease takes its toll, and a kidney transplant is critical to Weathers’ survival. However, while waiting for a compatible donor, the Weathers family can only wait and pray.
“It’s just a very stressful, day-by-day process,” said Alisha Weathers, Duwayne’s wife.
Alisha first became concerned for her husband in April 2011, when the couple came home from a date night and Duwayne wasn’t feeling well.
A glucometer reading was abnormally high, prompting the couple to head to the emergency room at Lourdes hospital.
No sooner had they informed hospital staff of Duwayne’s symptoms than he was hurried back for IVs and blood work. It wasn’t until 2 a.m. before a physician entered the Weatherses’ room to inform them Duwayne was in stage 4 renal failure.
The news was devastatingly shocking, but the following weeks proved better for Duwayne. The couple packed their bags and moved to Lakeland, Fla., with their two sons — Chandler, 12, and Andrew Looper, 14 — and Jamesyn Vaughn, 4, who has been under the couple’s care since birth.
Hoping the family had turned a new leaf, the bad news returned only months later. Without any insurance, Duwayne sought a Lakeland clinic to ensure he could still get medication, but blood work identified the need for immediate hospitalization.
“That’s when we found out he was in end stage renal failure and had to be put on dialysis immediately,” Alisha said.
“We moved back in October 2012, after several hard months in and out of hospitals, and we just call Florida our very long vacation.”
The bad luck continued after returning to western Kentucky and a further string of medical complications had Duwayne at Lourdes hospital again.
According to the American Kidney Fund, when a patient is in end stage renal failure, the kidneys are almost entirely non-functioning.
Without the kidneys scrubbing blood of waste products, toxins build up that can cause symptoms such as general illness, fatigue, weight loss and nausea. The condition is irreversible and a transplant is critical.
“At first it was really scary,” Duwayne said. “I went through a little depression, but I’m coming out of that and I’m looking toward the future.
I’m getting on the transplant list at Vanderbilt (University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.), so I’m looking up.”
While solidifying their position on the transplant list, the Weatherses can’t do much but try to raise money for the $250,000 transplant and sit by the phone.
Bags must be packed, preparations made and everyone keeps a certain stage of readiness in the back of their mind for when the call comes. It’s nothing short of stressful.
“It’s a relief because he can get a new kidney, and he can have more energy to be with his family,” Alisha said. “But at the same time it’s still not a relief because it’s hoping for a donor, for that living donor to be a match.
“The waiting, it just takes a toll on you.”
Emily Joyner, communications director with the National Foundation for Transplants, said transplant candidates are typically referred to the organization for help planning fundraisers to help raise money for costly transplants.
The organization helps patients across the nation, including the Weatherses.
Not only can the wait for a transplant create its own stress, but also raising money for the operation adds another layer of pain.
The average kidney transplant costs about $250,000, but that’s on the relatively low end of the transplant scale, Joyner said. A heart transplant can cost up to a million dollars.
“Some people are really positive and determined, they know they’re going to overcome this,” Joyner said. “Some people are feeling a little more desperate and others can be at their wit’s end.”
The couple might not be at wit’s end — chalk it up to that bowler’s determination — although they do recognize the importance of raising money, not just for the operation, but for the lifetime of follow-up care and daily anti-rejection medications that could follow.
With several fundraiser opportunities, including a “Bowl for Bubba” night held throughout the month of May, they pray this period of their life can be reset, giving them a whole new frame of opportunity.
Visit www.transplants.org, and click “Find an NFT Patient,” to learn more about Duwayne Weathers or to make a donation.
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676 or follow @WCPinkston on Twitter.