For one Southern Indiana man, Father’s Day is particularly special this year.
Marcus Edwards went to his doctor for an annual check-up in 2019. It was days before a trip to St. Louis to watch his son’s swim meet.
“When I got home, the nurse called and said my potassium was critical, so go to the emergency room,” he said. “So I went to the emergency room and they took care of me. They got my potassium down and everything and gave me some instructions, and said I was clear to travel.”
Edwards, who lives in Jeffersonville, felt normal on the trip. But the week after, he was sluggish.
It felt like a hangover, or the flu. As the week progressed, so did Edwards’ symptoms — he could barely walk. His brother-in-law took him to the E.R. again.
“They ran some tests and the doctor came back, and he was like ‘You’re in acute kidney failure. Both kidneys have shut down,’” Edwards said.
Doctors began emergency dialysis on Edwards that night. He spent 14 days in the hospital.
Edwards said he used that time to do some soul-searching. He cried, he prayed, then he decided to fight.
“The emotions for me were to make sure that I get through this to see my kids reach their milestones,” he said.
Edwards wanted more time with his wife, to watch his two sons play sports, to support his youngest daughter through her first year of college, and cheer for his oldest when she earned her bachelor’s degree.
He continued treatments at home with support from his care team at Fresenius Kidney Care in Louisville and went back to work.
But ultimately, Edwards needed a new kidney.
Aleciah Heckman, a registered nurse who was Edwards’ case manager at Fresenius, said the average wait time for a transplant is about five years.
“People on dialysis spend an average of 10% of their time receiving treatment, which may not seem like a lot, but it’s not just medical treatment,” Heckman said. “It’s an emotional treatment, and everyone handles that differently. So it is quite the journey to be on the transplant list.”
Edwards came up with an idea. He went to a Chicago Bears game with a handwritten poster.
It said, “I need a kidney. O positive.”
A picture of Edwards went viral. His phone started buzzing right after the game.
“I was just looking for one person to see that, one angel to see that, and help me out,” he said. “I didn’t think it would go that big. And then I never thought in a million years that this would be a person that was 15 minutes from my house.”
People called from as far away as Texas, Colorado and California. But it was a fellow Hoosier from New Albany — just a few miles away — who became the angel Edwards was looking for.
“[The transplant coordinator] said, ‘We have a match,’ and I don’t think I heard anything else after that, now that I think,” Edwards said of hearing the news. “I just broke down and cried.”
Edwards got his new kidney last October, more than two years after his first dialysis treatment.
Since then, he’s seen a lot of the milestones that kept him going during his treatment. He watched his oldest daughter walk at her college graduation last month.
“That was my medal for the marathon, getting to see that,” he said. “Because that’s what I fought so hard for, just to be proud and show her how proud I was. That’s what it’s all about.”
Edwards said Father’s Day has always been a big deal for him. But this year is different.
It’s a new beginning.
“This means the world to me, because I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to this one or the next one,” Edwards said. “I’ve been asked, ‘Well what are you guys going to do?’ Man, you know what, we can sit in the living room and just stare at each other, and that would just be the best Father’s Day ever for me.”
Edwards said he wants his experience to inspire hope in others who need a transplant. He also encouraged people to learn about risk factors for kidney disease, which include diabetes and high blood pressure.
Black Americans have a higher risk for these conditions and are disproportionately affected by kidney disease, compared to other groups. According to the National Institutes of Health, Black Americans are nearly four times more likely to develop kidney failure than white Americans.
John Boyle is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. John’s coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County, Community Foundation of Southern Indiana and Samtec, Inc.