“We had company coming over for the weekend, and I asked if this couldn’t wait until Monday. My doctor said if you wait until Monday, you’ll probably be dead.”
Don Stuckey, 59, of Beecher City, a small community southeast of Springfield, remembers those words as if they were yesterday instead of three years ago.
“I was having trouble sleeping,” Don recalled. “I was up and down a lot at night, but I figured that was just old age. One week, I only slept about four hours the entire week. I went to the doctor and asked for some sleeping pills. He said OK, but told me to have a blood test before I left.”
“That was a Thursday,” Don said. “The next morning the doctor called to say something was wrong with my test and to come back in for another blood test. Early that afternoon, I got another call and was told to get to the hospital immediately.”
Don headed to Memorial Medical Center in Springfield Friday afternoon, canceling his weekend plans. By early Saturday morning, he had a catheter in his neck and was scheduled for dialysis. He quickly learned that both of his kidneys were shutting down and his blood was full of deadly toxins.
As a result, Don’s name was added to the transplant waiting list through Memorial’s Transplant Services.
A 35-year electrician, Don was physically unable to work full time. For three years, he went to dialysis three times a week. He went on a restricted diet and lost 50 pounds.
“When your kidneys are failing, the list of foods you can eat is a lot shorter than the list of foods you can’t eat,” Don said. “It all happened so fast. My entire life changed overnight.”
Recently, Don learned about Memorial’s Transplant Services 5K Run/Walk, held every September. This annual event is designed to provide Memorial’s transplant patients and their families financial assistance for expenses related to transplantation, education for patients and staff and continuing program development.
To help raise money for this year’s event, Don’s plan was to walk from Effingham on Thursday, Sept. 19, arrive in Springfield on Friday, Sept. 27, and then participate in the event the following day in Washington Park.
Beforehand and along the way, he would sell bracelets, huggies and pins with the slogan, “Transplant Awareness — Be an Organ Donor.” He even set up a website with information about his walk, as well as the importance of organ donation at Walk90.org.
But on Friday, Aug. 2, just eight weeks before the 5k, Don’s life changed overnight again.
“I was in dialysis when the transplant team called,” he said. “They wanted to know if I was available to come to the hospital. Of course I was! My transplant surgery started Friday night, and it was all over early Saturday morning.”
“I still plan on selling the rest of the bracelets, huggies and pins. I still have a team participating in the 5k. And I still plan on making that walk from Effingham to Springfield. Then I’m going to walk to the start line this year and present as large of a check as I possibly can for this cause.”
More information about Memorial’s Transplant 5k Run Walk and online registration is available at Memorial’s Transplant Services 5k Run/Walk.