FRANKLIN, Pa. – It’s a huge ask.
Darrin Graham understands this. So does Rhiannon, his wife of the 14 years. Darrin has been dealing with kidney failure since he was 15 years old living in Baltimore.
He and Rhiannon got married right around the time of his second kidney transplant. The first transplant didn’t really take.
Now the 43-year-old Franklin resident needs a third.
“The doctors didn’t really know why,” Darrin said about his kidney failure as a teenager.
For the last 28 years, he has dealt with failing kidneys, dialysis, and knowing he likely has to hope a new donor will be there when he needs it the most. Now is one of those times.
Recently he was lined up to get a kidney from an organ donor who died, but something happened and the kidney went to another patient.
So the Grahams went back to waiting.
“We’re told a transplant is generally good for about 10 years. This one has been 14,” Rhiannon said.
Unfortunately, this kidney hasn’t been much good to him for a few years now.
Darrin spends four hours each Monday, Wednesday and Friday hooked up to a dialysis machine. The treatments wear him out.
“He’s tired a lot,” Rhiannon said. “He’s still really tired all the time and getting dizzy more frequently. We’re just hoping we can find a match before anything does get worse.”
The couple have been dealing with Darrin’s kidney problems as their son DJ has battled heart issues from birth. The toddler has been in and out of the hospital for the last three years undergoing multiple surgeries.
During all those treatments, the Grahams took turns going to Pittsburgh and staying in Franklin with their five other children.
Even as he was in Pittsburgh with his son, Darin was getting his dialysis.
DJ is doing better now so they are home more, but Darrin is still spending 12 hours a week hooked to a machine just to keep his body functioning.
The couple is hoping that finding Darrin a living donor they can get back a little normal.
Waiting for a match through a deceased donor is a 1 in 50,000 chance, they said.
“We’ve been told by the doctor that finding a living donor is our best chance,” Rhiannon said.
Rhiannon said about her husband has to very careful about what he consumes.
“He doesn’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes or anything. He barely even drinks soda,” she said.
His kidney’s simply just have not worked well since he was a teenager.
He feels lucky that he doesn’t really experience much pain and has been able to help take care of his kids. His body isn’t helping him. He is running out of places for a port to receive his dialysis. A complication with a previous port nearly killed him. A transplant is really his next option.
The family has started a Facebook page with lots of information about becoming a living donor. Even if one doesn’t match Darrin’s blood type they can still sign up and their kidneys could help another and the agency will try to match Darrin’s through a swap system.
The page describes Darrin’s situation and provides information about being a living donor and where folks can go to help.
“This is very draining on him. But he sucks it up and is a great father to his children. He goes to all their sporting events, plays catch with them and he helps takes care of his 3-year-old son who was born with congenital heart disease and has had 5 open-heart surgeries.” the page explains.
Battling kidney failure has become his second full-time job of being a dad.
“I know this is a lot to ask of someone but at this point, it seems to be our only option,” said Rhiannon.
“I just want to see my kids grow, that’s all that matters” Darrin added.
Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in June on Eight & 322, a blog by Richard Sayer covering Venango County. Sayer was kind enough to share the story with yourdailylocal.com. Check out more from Eight & 322 here.