For transplant patients, a new kidney can mean many things. For Floyd Everett, it’s meant vacations with his family, a new marriage and a run for political office. Now, he’s giving back to the organization that was there for him at the start of his transplant journey.
It has been nine years since Everett received his new kidney. It was the end of a chapter that started when he was 32 years old. At the time, Everett was a member of the Air Force stationed in St. Louis, Missouri. Everett and one of his daughters were shopping at the Post Exchange (PX) one weekend when they were encouraged to get their blood pressure checked during a health fair happening outside the store.
“I told the lady my blood pressure was good,” Everett said. “She told me the top number was near 200 and that meant it was far from good. She made me an appointment with a doctor for the following week.”
It was during that appointment that the doctor told Everett that he likely had diabetes and that it had caused the high blood pressure.
During the next two weeks, Everett would drink a formula every morning and have his blood sugar tested. The results confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis. Leaders at the base in St. Louis decided to send Everett to Texas for four months of testing while starting treatment for diabetes. Once the testing finished, he was sent back to St. Louis.
Because of his diabetes, Everett was discharged from the Air Force and placed on disability shortly after returning to Scott Air Force Base. Two weeks later, Everett took the next step in his career working as a logistics officer at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Chicago. Years later, Everett and his family moved to Augusta where he worked at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center’s downtown location.
While he started taking a pill to treat his diabetes, he eventually had to start giving himself insulin shots daily.
“I was not happy about that,” Everett said. “Those shots hurt, and you never get used to sticking yourself day after day after day.”
The disease and his high blood pressure caused his kidneys to fail starting in November 2005. Doctors inserted a shunt to help, and in early 2006, his name was added to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ transplant registry. While the shunt helped for a while, his kidney function deteriorated to the point of no return in August 2007. It was at that time that Everett started dialysis three days a week. Nevertheless, he was determined to continue living his best life.
“My social worker told me I visited 28 different dialysis centers,” Everett said. “Every other month my wife and I were taking trips to visit family and friends. So, I’d have to schedule visits to dialysis centers in other states including, Minnesota, Texas, Illinois and Florida.”
It was January 2009 when Everett and two other people got the call that there was a kidney available for transplant. All three people spent the next day at Augusta University Medical Center going through tests to determine which person would have the greatest chance at a successful transplantation.
“It was a long day that started at 5 a.m. Very challenging,” he said. “At 6 p.m. that night they told me that I was the perfect candidate. At midnight, they wheeled me into the operating room.”
One of Everett’s daughters asked her dad to have the transplant done at Emory Healthcare. However, he said having the operation at Augusta University Medical Center was the right decision for him.
“It worked out great having my transplant done in Augusta,” he said. “I was close to home. If I had to go in the hospital, I was close by. My wife could come and go every day, every hour.”
During his time on dialysis, Everett said a nurse encouraged him to share his experience with others waiting for a transplant. Six months after the transplant, he got that opportunity. Everett went to Atlanta for a weekend seminar to learn about the Georgia Transplant Foundation’s The Mentor Project. During the trip, he met a man who had mentored 35 people. Presentations during the seminar included information about opportunities for transplant recipients to go back to work with help from a job placement program.
“The coordinator from Atlanta would call and tell me there was someone who wanted to be mentored,” Everett said. “You call them or meet with them in person to see what questions they have.”
So far, Everett has mentored 15-20 individuals and spoken to hundreds of potential transplant recipients at churches, health fairs and other education events. Everett said he reminds patients about the print out they receive at the end of each month showing how many appointments they missed and if they got off the machine early.
“I tell them they need to keep up with all of their doctor appointments,” he said. “Don’t miss your dialysis appointments. If you’re not complying with your appointments now, why is the program going to waste a kidney on you?”
For Everett, getting his new kidney gave him a new lease on life and a chance to make the kind of memories he’ll treasure for the rest of his longer life.
“I can’t tell you how many vacations I’ve had since my transplant. I’ve taken so many,” he said. “You get to live your life and have the energy to do stuff.”
Since 1968, AU Health’s Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program has conducted over 2,600 transplants and continues being a nationwide leader in transplantation care. On Sept. 29, the medical center will hold a 50th Anniversary Celebration for the program giving patients, donors and staff an opportunity to meet and share their stories. For more information about this event or the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program, call 706-721-2888.
About AU Health’s Transplant Program
Augusta University Health is home to the 14,000-square-foot Carlos and Marguerite Mason Solid Organ Transplant Center, and over 2,600 lifesaving kidney and pancreas transplants have been performed at the medical center since 1968. AU Health is one of 19 hospitals in the United States and the only medical center in Georgia, to be selected to take part in the initial Collaborative Innovation and Improvement Network that aims to improve kidney transplantation nationwide. AU Health is also a two-time national Kidney Transplant Center of Excellence.