Pete Leonetti Sr. needs a kidney.
Diagnosed with high blood pressure when he was merely 16 years old, Leonetti was prescribed Advil throughout most of his adult life. But while Advil was helping with his high blood pressure, the common medication was silently taking a toll on his kidneys.
Now at 68, Leonetti is facing kidney failure.
“All my life they gave me Advil,” Leonetti said. “The medical field is still learning, but during the learning period, they gave me stuff that actually damaged me.”
Leonetti was given two options: Be put on dialysis (a treatment that acts like a kidney, filtering chemicals from blood and keeping it at a safe level), or find a kidney donor.
So far Leonetti has been unable to find a donor, so dialysis is becoming his only option. But the treatment has its downsides.
“What we have studied and learned is that the dialysis is a very poor way of life,” Leonetti said. “It’s not nice. You may end up going three to four times a week; it could be as much as six hours at a time. And then the problem is, after the dialysis, you feel terrible. You feel like you ran a five-mile race. You’re really beat. So most people end up going home and sleeping. Therefore, three days of your week is shot.”
Leonetti has already begun the procedure, getting a port, or fistula, for the dialysis surgically placed in his arm. But the discomfort began just as it started — three days after the procedure, the fistula caused an infection and he had to go to the hospital to get it treated.
Leonetti had also been through two triple-bypasses, which resulted in severe damage to his arteries and the lower section of his heart.
“The dialysis would put an extreme amount of pressure on his body in wear-and-tear, so it’s not just like complaining about the inconvenience of his life, it’s that the treatment could be worse than the cure. It makes it a tougher situation that way,” Pete Leonetti’s son, Pete Jr. said.
Leonetti is currently on a waiting list at the transplant center at Emory. However, the wait could take up to five years, according to Leonetti, as younger patients are placed higher on the list.
“Let’s face it. If a 25-year-old guy needs a kidney, and a 68-year-old guy needs a kidney? What’s the right thing to do? That’s the way it is,” Leonetti said.
Originally from Brooklyn, the Leonettis have been Newton County residents for 38 years. They fell in love with the area when they helped a friend move to the area.
“It was the place to stay. Covington is beautiful.” Leonetti Sr.
They would eventually start a family business, Allied Recycling. Now retired, his children run both facilities located in Conyers and Covington.
Unfortunately, none of his immediate family members have been able to donate due to their own health issues: Leonetti’s wife, Angie, had cancer; Leonetti Jr. has high blood pressure; Leonetti Jr.’s sister, Love, had a heart attack.
“The biggest thing about this is just getting the word out there, to bring more awareness to the situations where people need organs and the quality of life for other people who are on dialysis—they could be in worse physical shape; at least Dad is up and moving and continuing his life,” Pete Jr. said. “But it’s the fight to have that life, just to simply be alive and to celebrate life. It’s more important than just living.”
Leonetti remains hopeful. His blood type is A positive, but even if a donor’s blood type doesn’t match his, the kidney can still save another person’s life, which would in turn move Leonetti higher on the waiting list.
“It’s sort of like ‘if you give me one, I’ll give you one,’” Leonetti said. “This isn’t about the money to get the transplant. I just need the organ.”
His family has been trying to think of ways to spread the word, utilizing social media and reaching out to various news outlets to bring awareness to the need for kidney donors.
“We love our Dad, faithful to God, and I actually have been praying that He heals Dad’s body so he wouldn’t need a transplant,” Pete Jr. said. “He’s been on our prayer list at church for a number of years, from his heart condition to his kidney. We just remain faithful.”