Virginia Anthony — mother, widow and caretaker for an adult daughter with Down syndrome — needs a new kidney, and, after a donor match fell through a few weeks ago, she’s turning to the community for help.
She has stage 4 kidney disease, which she was diagnosed with in 2019. The disease is a result of diabetes.
Speaking to the Daily News on Thursday — the day after her 68th birthday — Virginia said she’s hoping someone might be in a position to help, and she’s asking potential donors to call the Mercy Health Living Donor Transplant Center and see if they’re a match.
Virginia knows it’s asking a lot, but she’s not doing it for her own sake. Rather, she’s tying to make sure she sticks around for her daughter, Toni, who lives with her and depends on her.
“If it were just me, I’d just let whatever happens happen,” Virginia said. “But I have a daughter. She’s 45, and she has Down syndrome, and if I were to go, I don’t know what she’d do.”
She said Toni struggles to communicate and is dependent on her mother for many things. But Virginia also relies on Toni.
“She is just the best person in my life, and she takes care of me, too,” she said. “I need to do all that I can do to stay healthy for her.”
Virginia has gone through all the steps necessary to be placed on the list for a kidney transplant. She was scheduled to receive one this fall, but it fell through.
“I had a donor, but it didn’t work out because he had some health issues, so I’m back to square one,” she said. “I am on the donor list at St. Mary’s, so now I just need to find a donor.”
She said she’s still able to care for Toni, but she is struggling with the symptoms — specifically shortness of breath.
“Right now, my kidneys are working at about 13 percent. Doctors are doing all they can to keep me off dialysis because I don’t want it. It’s costly and hard on your body. Very, very hard.”
Other symptoms include dizziness, nausea and vomiting. She hasn’t experienced the latter yet, but once she does, she fears it will be too late.
“I’d have to go on dialysis, and once you go on that, you never get off,” she said.
Virginia said she considers a living donor to be the only option.
“If you wait for a (kidney from a) cadaver, it could be five to seven years,” she said. “I don’t have five to seven years.”
Virginia has faced and overcome plenty of health-related challenges in her life. She’s undergone brain surgery five times, had a foot amputated and more, all unrelated to the kidney disease.
“If you can name it, I’ve had it done,” she said. “I just keep on going.”
She’s also struggling financially to cover the costs of medical care. The only income she has is Social Security and pension checks from her deceased husband, Gary, who worked for the Michigan Department of Transportation and died in 2004.
She has an optimistic outlook about life and generally believes things will work out for the best, but with Toni to consider, she feels she has to make every effort to improve her health — even taking the uncomfortable step of asking her neighbors to consider making a sacrifice for her.
She’s already asked family members. Some were not compatible, while others were not willing.
Virginia said she knows it’s asking a lot, but she feels it needs to be done.
“I don’t like to ask for help, but in this situation I feel like I need to reach out and do everything I can,” she said. “(Toni) is everything to me, and I need to make sure I’m there for her.”
Virginia’s blood type is B positive. People with that blood type, or universal type O-negative donors, could be compatible, but there are other tests associated with checking kidney compatibility.
Those interested in checking to see if they are compatible, or learning more about what the donation process would entail, should call the living donor general information line at Mercy Health Kidney Transplant Center. The center can be reached by calling (616) 685-6899.
“Just call down there, and they set everything up. They would test them and see if they match,” Virginia said, adding that many of the tests can be done locally.
To look into making a monetary donation to help with medical expenses, call Virginia at (231) 425-3513.