Advanced Kidney Disease Hits Randy Feimster, Transplant List Next Stop

Published Monday, May 7, 2018 at 8:55 am

Despite needing a kidney transplant, and requiring dialysis treatment three days a week, Randy Feimster continues to be a constant presence at the Watauga County Library, where he enjoys interacting with library patrons, including Andrew Guy, pictured here.

By Sherrie Norris

Randy Feimster, a friend to many in the High Country, is among more than 661,000 Americans currently diagnosed with kidney disease. He is also one of nearly 468,000 individuals on dialysis — and will soon join thousands more on the list for a kidney transplant. Hopefully, soon, he will also be among the 193,000 living with a functioning kidney transplant.

A once avid cyclist who has always tried to stay physically fit, Feimster said this journey started over two years ago when his kidneys were damaged after he developed a kidney infection. “This was due to not getting an enlarged prostate checked,” he admitted, while strongly encouraging any male over 50 “to get checked out.”

“ I was getting slower and slower on the bike,” Feimster said, adding, “You don’t realize how sick you are since it comes on slowly. Late last year, after battling the symptoms for two years, my nephrologist looked at my numbers and I was told I should start dialysis.”

With a passion for life, Randy Feimster loves spending quality time with his wife, Tami and their granddaughter, Daisy

Today, six months into dialysis, three days a week, Feimster contends that he still feels like he’s the healthiest person he knows — with kidney disease.

Feimster’s positive outlook on life is helping him face his challenge, but it’s nothing new for those who know him best. He’s disciplined by nature, and is trying to play by the rules, including adhering to stringent dietary requirements.

“It’s important that the transplant team knows that I am taking this seriously and will take care of my new kidney when I receive it,” he said.

Currently the circulation manager at Watauga County Public Library, Feimster is certainly no stranger to the High Country. For 16 years, he owned and operated the Curiosity Shop in downtown Boone, directed Blood, Sweat and Gears for a decade, and has been a constant presence in the success of numerous community endeavors.

Still maintaining a 40-hour work week, Feimster leaves the library for his dialysis treatment for four hours, three days a week, returning afterward to finish his day. “The administration and the staff at the library have been so understanding and supportive,” he said.

His diagnosis, alone, qualifies him for disability, but that’s not something Feimster plans to entertain anytime soon.

“The dialysis treatments make me feel better, and I have no other problems, so there is no need to give in or give up at this point,” he said. “I am very blessed to be able to walk in and out of the kidney center, unlike many who come in wheelchairs and some by ambulance.”

However, he needs a live kidney and the countdown has begun.

“He needs a Ferrari kidney,” said his wife, Tami. “He’s too healthy, too active to settle for less. A cadaver will save his life, but he will wear it out, and what are the chances of having another kidney transplant down the road? He needs something strong to help keep him strong for a long time to come.”

Feimster has begun the final requirements to finding his spot on the transplant list, which he said, already contains 90,000 hopeful recipients nationwide.

“Around 18,000 kidney transplants are performed each year; the wait could be several years for just a cadaver. I’m hoping we can find a live donor in the very near future,” he shared.

The thought of someone being so generous as to share the gift of life with him is something Feimster can’t quite grasp. “It’s hard for me to wrap my head around asking someone for an organ, but I would hope that I would be willing to do that for someone else,” he said. “I just can’t imagine what it all means, except that someone out there might be willing to save my life. Words cannot express the gratitude that I’d have for someone who would do that for me.”

Unfortunately, Tami is among those closest to him who have not made it past the preliminary stages as a possible donor, due to health concerns of her own.

Should someone qualify as a donor in the process, but is not an exact match for Feimster, the data can be shared nationwide and someone else on the list receive that kidney, while another one is found for Feimster.

Most donor surgery is done laparoscopically with a usually quick recuperation period, generally two weeks, Feimster has been told; the donor’s medical bills, related to the kidney donation, will be covered by his insurance.

Feimster is working with the living donor coordinator and the abdominal organ transplant team at Wake Forest Baptist Health, where the transplant will be performed.

“I’ve got a great team there at Baptist and I’ve got a great team here at the Fresnius Center in Boone,” he said. “I could not ask for better care than what I am receiving.”

Feimster admitted that learning of his disease — and the need for a kidney —resulted in a mixture of emotions, but at the same time, “It puts it all into perspective. Life is so fragile and I have learned to cherish every moment that I have. I’m surrounded by a great support system and I know we can do this. I would like to thank the readers for taking the time to hear my story. If they have any questions they can email me at [email protected] or call the transplant center.”

Anyone interested in being tested as a possible donor for Feimster should contact Leigh Creasey, pre-transplant coordinator at Wake Forest Baptist Health, by calling 336-713-5684/ toll free at 855-886-6833, or emailing [email protected]

More about Kidney Disease

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a diagnosis of kidney disease means that an individual’s kidneys are damaged and cannot filter blood the way it should. The damage, in turn, causes waste to build up in the body. Kidney disease can result in other health problems, including heart disease and stroke. Major risk factors for kidney disease include diabetes, high blood pressure and family history of kidney failure.

When kidneys fail, individuals need dialysis, the treatment required to filter wastes and water from the blood.

Kidney disease progresses in stages and may eventually lead to kidney failure. Kidney disease often has no symptoms in its early stages and can go undetected until it is very advanced. For this reason, kidney disease is often referred to as a “silent disease.”

Each year, kidney disease kills more people than breast or prostate cancer.

Kidney disease affects people of all ages, but those 60 and over are the most likely to develop it.

The five stages of kidney disease include the following:

  • Stage 1: Kidney damage with normal kidney function.
  • Stage 2: Kidney damage with mild loss of kidney function.
  • Stage 3: Mild-to-severe loss of kidney function.
  • Stage 4: Severe loss of kidney function.
  • Stage 5: Kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplant for survival.

(Stats provided by National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.)

Randy Feimster has always been there for others, and now he and his family are hoping that someone will step forward as a possible kidney donor to help him in his time of need.





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