Packer Wilson has been diagnosed with stage 4 renal failure and needs a life-saving kidney transplant. It's a tough diagnosis for a very tough man.
COMMERCE – Packer Wilson, 33, is a strong and humble man, not the kind to ask for anything, but he needs help.
Wilson has been diagnosed with stage 4 renal failure and needs a life-saving kidney transplant. It’s a tough diagnosis for a very tough man.
Wilson and his wife Danielle learned the devastating news while undergoing testing for infertility issues.
“The doctors called us in November and told me, ‘Dani there’s something more going on,’ so, in December that’s when we found out Packer is in stage four renal failure, and he needs a kidney transplant,” Danielle said. “It kind of just hit us really quickly and was a lot to take in. A couple of months ago he went to the transplant specialists. It’s been tough.”
Wilson has less than 80 percent function in both kidneys making the need for the kidney urgent.
“They said it’s just too far gone to determine the cause. The specialists in Joplin are trying to prolong me from going on dialysis, as long as I stay active and my blood pressure and stuff doesn’t get all out of whack or I get sick,” said Wilson. “There’s a point where I’ll have to have it unless I get the transplant.”
Before Wilson can undergo a transplant he has to be in the best health possible including quitting tobacco use. He has been striving hard to get on the transplant list and has just days to go to reach that goal.
“That’s what I struggle with, so that’s real hard. It’s a daily struggle every day with that. I have 12 more days and then I’ll call up there and then they’ll start scheduling everything else. They want you to receive a healthy kidney and they want you to be healthy as possible,” Wilson said.
The couple is hoping to find a living donor with O Positive blood type to donate a kidney. Wilson placed “#gotakidney? O+” decals on the back window of his red pickup truck as a way to help raise awareness and seek a donor.
“He was a little scared about it. He doesn’t want to take someone else’s kidney and not know if it’s going to work well with him because they did tell us there’s always that chance of your body rejecting,” Danielle said.
The couple was also told once Wilson receives a kidney they should be able to start the family they have dreamed about having.
Friends and strangers have rallied around the Wilsons to raise funds to help the couple during this difficult time with medical expenses, monthly bills, groceries, gas money and other needs.
Wilson is determined to continue to work driving a truck for Bingham Sand and Gravel as long as he can, but will be off for at least six months after a transplant.
A “Pie-In-The-Face” and change donation jar fundraisers have been ongoing at the Tiger Stop convenience store in Commerce. For each fundraising goal met a local official got a pie to the face, including Commerce Fire Chief Michael Sweeten, police officer Sam Pinion and Chief of Police Ray Horn, plus Tiger Stop workers.
“Packer comes in here all the time and we love him,” Tiger Stop’s Shonna Stovall said. “Our staff wanted to do this, and so we put it out there and everybody jumped in. We raised a little over $1,400.”
“I just appreciate the chance to help a family out,” Horn said after goodheartedly taking a pie to the face.
“This has also been a blessing towards us because everybody has stepped up to help at Tiger Stop and everybody that allowed us to pie them in the face,” Danielle said.
“It feels good. We don’t even live in this town and they’ve gone out of their way. I try to stop here every day,” Wilson said. “ It’s just the thought of people going far over expectations because when this all started I didn’t tell nobody. Nobody knew nothing, I kept it all to myself.”
Only those closest to Wilson knew of his diagnosis and struggles. He is physically a strong hard working man and kept the news of his illness to himself and family for some time, until one night while on the job he had time to contemplate his challenging diagnosis.
“That’s my biggest thing, just coming around and allowing people in to know my personal life – it was hard. The thing is I work a lot of crazy hours because what we do is seasonal with road construction going hot and heavy now. One night I was out at work, and something was like, ‘Turn the radio down,’ so I turned the radio off. I was out there by myself and a piece of equipment talking to nobody and it just all starts sinking in,” Wilson said.
It is hard for him to ask for or accept help, he explained.
“That night when something told me to turn the radio down I realized there is a lot of people that I think would help, and we have been really blessed by everybody - the donations,” Wilson said. “I never thought I would be the one having to have all this.”
“It’s so hard, especially he’s not one to ask, but he would be the first to help others,” Danielle said. “ God has shown us a lot through this time.”
Once a donor kidney is found Wilson will undergo a transplant in Tulsa, but he currently sees a specialist in Joplin. He says it took finding the right specialist to feel as if he was making good progress.
“The first doctor I saw was ready to put me on dialysis and send me down the river. He didn’t want to find out anything,” he said. “So, we went back another time with my mother-in-law, because she’s a question asker and a nurse, I had just shut down and was ready to leave, and it was getting too expensive for everybody to take off and drive to Tulsa. I went to another guy in Joplin, Dr. Ahmed Aboul, and he did a biopsy and has been more active about trying to find the reason behind it all, so that makes it a little more comfortable, that he’s trying.”
Wilson said he is in pain some days, but the generous outpouring of compassion has definitely helped to raise his spirits, although he deals with the physical struggles daily.
“It just depends on what I do most days. If I walk a lot my legs tend to start cramping up a lot more. Or even at work, I could be sitting and my leg will cramp up. That’s the biggest thing is the leg pain,” he said.
“I want to make sure that everybody knows we are forever grateful for everything. It is so hard," Danielle said her voice breaking with emotion. “My family, Jerry and Susan Frost, have taken off for almost every appointment he has gone to and we are both so grateful and appreciative for them.”
The couple wanted to thank all of the Tiger Stop crew, Horn and others, their employers at Grove First National Bank Matt Carnes and Max Madl, and Gary Howard, Mick Williams and Brandon Williams with Bingham Sand and Gravel and the many others who have helped and shown great compassion for them during these circumstances and struggles.
“They’ve all been really good to us,” Wilson said. “They said don’t worry about your hours, we’ll let you make them up if you need them.”
The Tiger Stop convenience store located at 105 S Mickey Mantle Blvd. in Commerce continues to take collection jar donations and is selling bracelets made and donated by Dale Frost to benefit Wilson.
Another friend, Lonna Mahurin-Henry has started an online auction to benefit Wilson on Facebook, “Packer Needs A Kidney-Auction Page” to ease any financial burden she can.
Mahurin-Henry is in the process of gathering auction items and getting the word out with plans to start the auction at the end of September or beginning of November.
Those who may be interested in making the ultimate gift of a live organ donation may contact the Wilsons by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.