Charlie- Kidney Recipient
It is important to understand that telling my story, is very difficult for me. Not only because it is so personal, but because it is a long and complex story, with many layers. You see, throughout my entire life, I have battled obesity and poor health. While my parents tried and for short while succeeded at controlling my diet, I struggled as an adult with poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle. At one point during my 30’s, I weighed over 700 lbs. I struggled to get control of my eating habits and sedentary lifestyle and eventually I began to lose weight and thought I was on the road to better health. Unfortunately, the long-term effects of being overweight persisted. When I entered my 40’s I was diagnosed with Diabetes and began the second battle for my life. A few years later, this battle became even more difficult when I was diagnosed with a condition called Charcot Foot syndrome, which caused the bones which hold my foot to my leg to disintegrate. Because of this, I wore a cast on my left leg and foot for the next 5 years. At this point, it had become apparent that I needed a kidney transplant, but due to my poor health, my hope for getting a new kidney was dwindling. It seemed that the light at the end of the tunnel was getting further and further away, as I struggled to keep going.
My wife Lynn and my daughter Kendra, both of whom are nurses, became the driving force that kept me fighting. My daughter did her best to counsel me from her home in GA and even though my relationship with Lynn was new, she went above and beyond and took over my health care and helped save my life. She talked to doctors, Nurses, and Technicians and as a family, we came up with a plan to set me on the path to wellness. Together we made the difficult decision to have my left leg amputated in the hopes that my health would improve. This would be the first step on my road to a new kidney. I was worried about the pain, but more than anything I wanted to be able to be here to play with my grandchildren. So, on February 9th, 2017, my left leg was amputated below the knee. While in rehab I realized two important things. First, that I didn’t have an ounce of pain, and two, that Allah (God) was giving me every sign that my life was about to change for the better and for good.
During my time at rehab, I worked hard and I befriended every staff member and patient I came across. When I entered the room for my first progress evaluation, everyone in the room looked somber and I prepared myself for the bad news. My wife, Lynn, and my doctors and I sat together and as readied myself for a long rehab stay I heard “Charlie Tee is not only the model patient, but he has motivated even those patients who we’ve been pleading with to work toward their own betterment.” The doctor listened as every Nurse, Tech, Social Worker, and Psychologist who had worked with me gave a report on my progress and as I looked at my wife who was in tears at this point, I heard my doctor say “well, Charlie was supposed to be here until June, looks like he’s going home in 2 weeks.” Now I’m crying… I learned to walk with my prosthetic in record time and to this day, most people don’t even know that I use one.
The second step on my road to a new kidney was to lose weight. After a lot of research, as a family, we made another difficult decision to seek bariatric surgery. We were told that if I lost 50 lbs I could be put on the transplant list and be on my way to a new kidney. So, in October of 2018, I had the surgery and initially lost 95 lbs! Then on January 24th, 2019 just two days after my 66th birthday, I was sitting in the transplant office. I was told “well buddy, things look good, I guess we’ll proceed toward finding you a kidney. Keep up the good work, and hopefully, I’ll see you soon.” Again, my poor wife is crying tears of utter joy, but the information isn’t really registering with me yet. When she gives me the thumbs up, I realize that we just got good news.
Finally, on May 17th 2019 I received my miracle. I went to dialysis that morning. When I finished at 10:30 am, I left and drove to Charleston, WV to play a gig with my band for, of all things, Senior Citizen Day. We were counting off the first song of the night, 1, 2, 3, when a security guard stops us saying, “which one of you is Charlie?” I called “I am.” His next words, I still hear in my sleep. “Call home, there’s an emergency at your house,” he said. I called home and Lynn said “don’t panic, they just called, they have a kidney. You need to come, pick me up; your bag is already packed. We need to be there in an hour!” Of course, I drove 80 mph all the way home and then all the way to the hospital. By May 18th, I had a new kidney!
As I said, this story has many layers. It isn’t simple or tidy and it was even more tremendous than I have words to convey. Hopefully, it has been enough for you to see all of the complexity, the twists and turns, and the forks in the road that led me here.
With God’s help and my wife and my family, I’m living, I’m smaller, and I am overjoyed to share my abbreviated story!
If you are considering being an organ donor or an advocate for people trying to find their way toward that path, I say, stand and be counted. Stand and shout your story, stand up and praise life, I sure am!