James Keith Fero is a dedicated family man. His family includes his wife, Crystal, and four children, Tyler, Brandon, Collin and Alisha. His daughter, Alisha, recently had her first child, Lillian. Her birth made Fero a first-time grandfather.
Fero is also a mechanic by trade. He began working under the hood when he graduated high school. Cars and boats are his favorite modes of transportation to work on. He also enjoys NASCAR and the lake.
In addition, Fero also has polycystic kidney disease and needs a kidney transplant as there is no cure. The disease is a chronic, genetic disease that causes uncontrolled growth of cysts in the kidney eventually leading to kidney failure. The disease is most often passed from an affected parent to their child. Alisha has seen first-hand how this disease has affected her father.
“I can see changes,” noted Alisha. “It hasn’t stopped him though. He’s still going to work.”
Despite his battle with the disease, Fero hasn’t let it stop him from living and appreciating life.
“I don’t know if he likes to do all the car stuff now. He’s at my home 24-7 (now that he’s a grandfather),” said Alisha, laughing. “He’s a big teddy bear. He’s kind hearted, sweet, he’ll do anything for anybody. His phone is constantly ringing all the time. He has so many people constantly calling to see what he’s doing, if he can help them with anything. He’s helping people at church. He doesn’t meet a stranger, that’s for sure.”
One day Alisha, who also has the disease, expressed her feelings in regards to what her father was going through on Facebook. Her post detailed the disease, the symptoms, what her father was experiencing and encouraged people to get tested to see if they were a match. The post led to a former schoolmate of Alisha’s contacting her because he wanted to help. The schoolmate has asked to remain anynomous.
“He’s works in webpage advertising,” said Alisha. Her schoolmate offered to create an ad based off of her post in hopes of raising awareness and ultimately find a donor for her father. He used Alisha’s words that were posted on Facebook and developed an ad.
As a result of the ad, Alisha has received positive feedback. She’s mailed approximately 20 donor packets.
One thing to note is that the donor requirements are strict.
“You have to pretty much be in perfect health. You can’t be a smoker. You can’t have high blood pressure. You can’t have a failing liver,” stated Alisha.
The family isn’t privy to the information regarding those who have asked for donor packets. One thing they are aware of is the fact that only one packet is processed at a time. While a potential donor may not be a match for Keith, each packet does inform the donor that they may be a match for someone else.
Anyone with B or O negative or positive blood type would be a match for her father. Their preference is to receive a living kidney – from someone who is alive. Living kidneys tend to last longer and have better function than one that is received from someone who has passed away.
In educating the public about the disease, Alisha also hopes to educate people regarding the transplant process.
“You can live off of one kidney,” said Alisha.
Recently, her grandmother (Keith’s mother) received a kidney from a living donor.
“He (her donor) bounced back within a few weeks. His recovery time wasn’t long at all. He doesn’t feel any different.”
Living with the disease, Alisha has immersed herself into learning more about the condition that has affected her family.
“I’ve read so much stuff. It all runs together. The past year I’ve been trying to get as much information as I can.”
Currently, her father is on the transplant list along with hundreds of others. With no one being considered priority, recipients are eligible according to their place on the list and their blood type. It’s the hope of the Fero family that they will find a donor, soon, for Keith.
“Being a selfless, living donor is such a gift that you are able to enjoy and benefit from. Knowing that you have given or will be giving the gift of life is amazing.”
More information regarding Fero’s fight can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/A-Kidney-for-Keith-1709357329373110/
Kassaundra Shanette Lockhart is a freelance writer.