Because March is National Kidney Month, I can’t let it go by without writing about my good friend, Sylvester Baugh. I have known Sylvester for 25 years. He is one of my most trusted friends. He is always reaching out to help others, is steadfast in his faith and is suffering from kidney disease.

Our kidneys are organs that are easy to ignore. We are typically unaware of their daily functions unless, of course, we are experiencing a kidney stone. I’ve never had one, but I hear they are extremely painful.

Kidneys act as filters to rid the body of waste and toxic substances. Sometimes we ingest these substances voluntarily and other times we are unaware of them. Alcohol is a substance kidneys filter, as are many prescription medicines. Therefore, painkillers like ibuprofen or Tylenol have a warning against taking more than a certain amount daily. It is too taxing on the kidneys.

In my friend’s case, he inherited difficult-to-regulate high blood pressure and has had to take a lot of blood pressure medicine over the years, simply to prevent a stroke. Not only that, he also suffers from gout, causing him to have to take even more medicine for that. All of this was too much for his kidneys, and now, they are failing.

He has been on dialysis daily now for almost five years. Rather than go to the clinic and undergo dialysis three times a week, he opted to treat himself at home while he sleeps. This method, however, needs to be done every day. It involves being hooked up to a machine that cleans your blood while you sleep. It involves a lot of work and heavy lifting of bags of fluid. It is exhausting. Imagine doing this every day.

As soon as I found out, I was tested to see if I could be eligible for a live donation. Yes, one of your kidneys can be donated while you are alive. Most of us were born with two, but we only need one to survive. People donate kidneys to loved ones all the time. I attempted to do that for Sylvester. There was a battery of tests to go through and I passed them all, until I got to the kidney function test. They told me my kidneys were slightly below the level they wanted to see, so they denied me as a donor. It was heartbreaking; we had a date scheduled for the surgery and everything.

The way I looked at it, it was like walking down a beach with two life preservers. You see someone drowning but you refuse to throw them one of your life preservers because you are worried one might not be enough for you. You want to keep them both for yourself. When I was being tested, the hospital told me that kidney donors go to the top of the list should they ever need a kidney later in their lifetime. That was good enough for me, but apparently, my kidneys weren’t healthy enough.

The following year, Sylvester had another willing donor but, at the last minute, they changed their mind. We don’t know why, but it may have been fear that stopped them from going through with it. It is a scary thing to go through elective surgery to remove a kidney. I was scared too.

Then, as if kidney disease wasn’t enough, Sylvester came down with prostate cancer. He had it treated with radiation and was in remission relatively quickly. But while receiving treatment for cancer, you come off the donor list. He was back on briefly and the cancer returned. This time, it was treated with a surgical solution and he is once again back on the list. But on this list, he is waiting for someone who is an organ donor that matches his blood type to die. It can feel like finding a needle in a haystack.

Sylvester has two daughters and three granddaughters who he loves dearly. He has so much life in him and is constantly looking for how he can uplift others. He never asks for anything in return.

If you are reading this and are interested in potentially becoming a donor for him, please contact him at sylbaugh@gmail.com. Thank you for reading.

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