On a warm August day in 2007, Nita Smith phoned her husband Danny at home in hopes of locating their son Nick. She had some bad news and needed to locate her son as soon as possible.
"We had been out of town and we took Nick to the doctor when we got back because he wasn't feeling well," Nita recalls. "His blood pressure was 180 over 120 so they put him on some medication and ran some tests.
"The doctors called me back later that day and told me to get Nick to the hospital as soon as possible because my son was dying."
Tests revealed Nick's kidneys had gone into renal failure and were essentially shutting down.
In 2003, doctors diagnosed Nick with IgA nephropathy, a kidney disorder that occurs when the infection-fighting protein IgA settles in the kidneys, causing them to leak blood and sometimes protein into the urine.
Nick was then placed on medication for the disease. But the family never felt he was in grave danger before that day.
Now his prognosis is crystal clear - Nick needs a kidney transplant to survive.
Humans can live with one functional kidney and Nita hopes to donate one of hers to her son.
"We have undergone several tests to determine if I am a viable transplant candidate," Nita said. "As it stands, I am a three out of six match and a very good possibility for a match."
First and foremost, blood types must match and both Nita and Danny share O-positive blood with Nick. Nita says doctors recommended she be the primary candidate and since she would be forced to miss work for an extended period of time, it makes economic sense for the family as well. But she added Nick's father is ready should he be the one who donates Nick's new organ.
"We'll do whatever it takes," she said. "It would work out better if I donated the kidney because his father works a more physical job and whoever donates the kidney wouldn't be able to lift anything over 10 pounds for quite a while. But either one of us are ready to do it."
Nita says 20-year-old Nick has put his life on hold. The once outgoing and energetic young man has moved back in to his parent's home after living on his own for two years. He has good days when he is full of energy and can spend time with friends. But three days a week, Nick visits Rockdale Medical Center where he undergoes 4-hour dialysis sessions to rid his system of the toxins the nonfunctional kidneys fail to remove.
"I know it's hard for him because he is independent and he's had to move back in with us," Nita said. "Some days he's up and around and it's go, go, go. But some days he has no energy to do anything but sleep all day. It's very tough for him."
Because of his condition, Nick can't work, even though he wants to. He has neither the energy nor the availability to meet the demands of a fulltime job.
Nevertheless, the family hopes Nita and Nick are compatible for a transplant. Once he receives his new kidney, the family will need money to offset the exorbitant costs associated with the post operation medications.
The family plans to hold a yard sale on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Total Child Care Experience at 25 Lovers Lane Road in Covington.
In addition, Nick is enrolled in the Transplant Fundraising Program through the Georgia Transplant Foundation and will receive matched funds up to $10,000.
Nita said the family has been busy raising money through any means necessary including recycling scrap metal and while she has been able to get an extension on Nick's COBRA benefits, they run out in November 2009.
Should Nick receive a successful transplant, he will need to take medication for the remainder of his life. The average cost of medication and maintenance for a new kidney runs in excess of $3,000 a month. Even with insurance, the family is still staring at a $400 monthly post-operation bill.
"We will continue to do as many fundraisers as we can," Nita said. "So far people like Chuck at Total Child Care Experience have been great. We hope to continue raising as much money and we hope the yard sale helps."
Anyone unable to attend the yard sale who wishes to make a financial contribution can write checks payable to the Georgia Transplant Foundation with Nicholas Smith Transplant Fund written in the memo section. Checks can be mailed to the Georgia Transplant Foundation, attention Holly Vanager-Crummell, 6600 Peachtree Dunwoody Road, 600 Embassy Row Suite 250, Atlanta, Ga. 30328. You can also make contributions online at www.gatransplant.org/client/nicsmith.