Tough Choices: Darrell, Barbara

Feeling Abandoned

"I've been a diabetic for over 20 years," Darrell says.

"His kidneys were getting progressively worse for a long, long time," says Darrell's wife, Barbara.

"My kidneys have shut down, and I need a kidney transplant," Darrell says.

"My husband has three brothers and three sisters, and no one has stepped up to donate a kidney," Barbara says. "I don't understand it at all, because if it were my sibling, I would step up and do whatever it took."

[AD]"My family doesn't really know what I'm going through with the dialysis," Darrell says. He opens his shirt and shows his chest. "This is my catheter, where I have access for my dialysis. It goes up into my heart. They haven't been around to see me go through the four hours a day with the treatment. They haven't seen the needles. They haven't seen the surgeries. If they were sick, they would expect me to step forward. This makes me very disappointed. I thought I was close with my family, but this makes me realize we're not as close as I thought."

"He could die tomorrow, and they don't understand that," Barbara says, growing tearful. "I'm really upset because he's so strong, he deserves better from his family."

Darrell's siblings, Stanley, 49, and Melvina, 45, say the decision to be tested as a donor match has been so difficult that they haven't even been able to talk to their brother about it.

"When Darrell made the donor list, he told us we can start getting tested, but I was hoping someone else would step forward and give him a kidney," Stanley admits. "I don't want to be tested, because I'm scared of the surgery and what could actually happen. I don't want to take that risk."

Melvina says, "I have serious concerns about being a donor. The fear of the surgery, the fear of the unknown for the future."

[AD]"We're very close. I haven't told him because I know he'll be disappointed in me," Stanley says. "And yes, he could die. And yet, people will look at me and say, ‘Well, you have the power in your hand to change that.' But if you feel a certain way, it's still difficult to override that."

"My prayer for my brother, Darrell, is that he will get a kidney " from someone who does not have the same fears and concerns that I may have," Melvina says.

"How serious is this, Darrell?" Dr. Phil asks.

"It's really serious. My veins in my arms, most of them have collapsed, so I have a catheter in my chest that goes directly to my heart. If that gets infected, that could be it," he says.

Barbara has been tested to see if she's a donor match, but her kidneys aren't strong enough.

Dr. Phil asks her, "What do you think about his brothers and sisters not doing this?"

"They haven't even gotten tested," she says. "They haven't even begun the process, except for his one daughter, who has started the process. So, I don't understand it. If it were my sibling, I'd do it in a heartbeat."

[AD]Melvina tells Dr. Phil that she and Stanley were only recently made aware that Darrell's condition was life-threatening.

"I was aware that my brother needed a kidney and everything, but I have to be honest with myself. It's something really fearful for me to do," Stanley explains. "I'm terrorized by it. I'm a person who, I don't get any tattoos, I don't get any earrings. I try to take care of myself."

"You said, in order for you to go under the knife, they're going to have to be going after a bullet," Dr. Phil says.

"Well, Dr. Phil, if you have a gun in your pocket, that's when I'll go under," he says.

Dr. Phil assures Darrell's siblings that he's not trying to guilt-induce them into getting tested. "No matter how flat you make a pancake, it's got two sides. We're going to look at the other side of this," he says. "My question is, is your fear so strong that you would rather deny your brother what could be a life-saving gift?"

"That's a hard question," Stanley says. "I've got to be honest. I love you," he tells his brother, "but yet it's still difficult for me to do it. It just is."

Darrell says he asked Stanley if he'd get tested, and Stanley told him he would. He says he really expected his brothers and his nephews to step up and do it.

Barbara says, "Like I've said before, I would be more afraid to lose my brother than I would of a surgery. That would be my bottom line."

Dr. Phil points out that Melvina may not be a suitable donor because she has health issues of her own. But if her health issues didn't interfere, would she contemplate being a donor for her brother?

"My readiness level to be a donor is not there yet. I have to be honest, it's not," she says. "I have my health issues, OK? But barring my health issues, I would have to seriously consider it." Melvina has four children, four grandchildren and a lot of obligations.

Dr. Phil explains what research shows regarding donors and life expectancy. "There has been a lot of research about kidney donation. There's no indication of increased mortality rate among donors. Only three in 10,000 have died post surgery. In fact, only seven out of 60,000 have ever needed a transplant themselves. It's a fairly low-risk situation," he says.

 

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