Can a hashtag help find a kidney donor and save someone’s life?
Count Wesley Chapel mom Dana Richman as a believer, after a Facebook and Twitter campaign she started in January helped find her son Joey, a 22-year-old pre-med student at the University of South Florida, a living kidney donor.
Tampa’s Mike Miller, a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter known by friends as “Muffin Man,” saw a #AKidneyForJoey post on Facebook, and has stepped forward.
The surgery and selfless sacrifice, which will effectively end Miller’s MMA career, is scheduled for Wednesday.
Battling Kidney Failure
Joey suffers from Alport’s Syndrome, a genetic condition that Dana says was passed down from her side of the family, which has suffered a number of deaths from the condition. Alport’s Syndrome causes hearing loss and renal failure. Joey first suffered hearing loss in the fourth grade, but doctors could do little to help, Dana says, until he went into renal failure, which has taken root in the past year.
Joey is fortunate. According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 100,000 people are awaiting kidney transplants. More than 3,000 new patients are added to the kidney waiting list each month, and 13 people die each day while awaiting a life-saving kidney transplant.
Joey, who lost 30 pounds in the last year, currently administers dialysis to himself every 4-6 hours, for a total of 10 hours daily. Dana says there are 75 boxes of solution in her home. It has made her son weak and tired, barely able to climb a flight of stairs. He is taking his college classes online because getting around campus is too difficult.
Dana has watched Joey deteriorate over the past year, and can’t work herself because she has been taking him to almost daily doctor appointments. She looks forward to April 20 and the months to follow. She says Joey will be isolated after surgery for 3-6 months, but hopes to be well enough to return to classes at USF in August.
“He will feel amazing, probably back to how he felt in elementary school,’’ Dana says. “He’ll be able to do everything other people his age can do. I have goosebumps already just thinking about it.”
Response Overwhelms Mother
Dana said she was stunned by the outpouring of support for her son’s plight. She says Miller is “the most humble, respectful young man you’ll ever meet.’’ She is also quick to thank the dozens of folks who called Tampa General Hospital (TGH) to volunteer for testing when the story broke.
She said TGH received up to 40 calls a day, and many are still volunteering to be Joey’s back-up if the transplant fails for any reason. A host of others, she added, asked to be matched up with others needing transplants. “Amazing,’’ she says. “That makes me happy.”
For Dana — a single mother of three boys including Wiregrass Ranch High graduate Jason, 19, and current WRH senior Jake, 17 — the amount of community support has been a blessing. The one-time military family has moved up and down the east coast, settling in Wesley Chapel three years ago from Pasadena, MD. Even then, she wasn’t sure what the future held.
“I’ll tell you what, Wesley Chapel is an amazing place,’’ Dana says. “Tampa is too, but Wesley Chapel, we couldn’t imagine any place better. It really feels like home, like we finally have a place to put our roots.”
To donate to the Richman family, visit GoFundMe.com/AKidneyForJoey. To help Mike Miller in his recovery, visit GoFundMe.com/6aunghtw. To become a kidney donor, contact Jenni Binns of Tampa General Hospital at 844-5669 or email her at email@example.com.
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