BRISTOL, Va. - Andy Brown's life revolves around tri-weekly trips to a Johnson City dialysis center. Thanks to the generosity of a woman from his church, Andy has a third chance at a normal life.
"I was born with one kidney dead, and the other working at 75 percent," said Brown. "When I was 3, I got my first transplant. That one lasted for 13 to 14 years, and that one aged with time. I got my second transplant in 2006, two weeks before my high school graduation, but that one never really worked."
In 2010, Brown went on dialysis. At first, he was able to do the sessions at home. Now he requires more intensive hemodialysis to remove waste, chemicals and extra fluid from his blood, something his own kidney can't do properly.
It's a temporary solution to a life-long struggle, a struggle that will hopefully end in October when Brown gets a third kidney. "The doctors were telling me [since] I've had multiple transplants, I've got all these antibodies. They said I'd be lucky to get [a kidney] in three to five years, if even that," said Brown.
This is where Saundra Smith, a mother of two who goes to Lighthouse Baptist Church with Andy, enters the picture. "I had seen how his health was declining," said Smith. "What inspired me the most was that he would come to church with a smile on his face, no matter how bad he felt. And I thought the least I could do, if it was my child I'd hope someone would want to donate."
"I figure I've got two kidneys, I'm functioning good. The Lord's let me live this long. He's got me this far," said Smith.
Teressa Dickerson, Andy's mom, is ready to see her son live a normal life. "I worry so much for him. He's had problems here lately. He's had a defibrillator put in. His heart is getting weaker. I see him going down and down. I know without a transplant he's not going to be here long," said Dickerson.
She's grateful to welcome Smith into Andy's life and into the family. "She's a blessing. She's our angel," said Dickerson.
Even though insurance will cover the surgery and hospital stay, the recovery process will put Saundra out of work for anywhere from six to ten weeks. Teressa will take time off to be with her son during his recovery in Charlottesville, Va.
A fundraiser is set for Saturday September 14 from 4 to 8 p.m. in downtown Saltville. Brown tells News 5 there will be food, a bike ride and a raffle to help raise money for the post-surgical costs.