COVINGTON - As gifts to big sisters go, Tim Wayt's is about as personal as it gets: He has agreed to donate a kidney to older sibling Bobbi Wayt, who is in need of a transplant to save her life.
"I know my sister would have done the same for me if the roles were reversed," he said.
"He is the only one in my family that was a match for me," Wayt said. "It means a great deal to me that he's even willing to consider this."
Wayt has been battling kidney disease for 14 years, her health steadily declining. Before she can get the transplant, she must raise at least $5,000. That's the minimum requirement from Piedmont Hospital, where she will have the surgery performed.
Due to the high cost of the anti-rejection drugs she will have to take, the hospital will not perform the surgery without proof that she can afford the medication, she said.
Medicaid and Medicare will pay for the surgery, and for 80 percent of her medications for the first two years after the operation.
But even with that assistance, Wayt is facing a very expensive recovery.
She will need to take as many as five medications, the cost of which will range from $800 to $3,000 each per month, she said.
So Wayt is enlisting the help of family members, local businesses and the community at large.
She plans to set up collection jars at area stores and her family is working to raise money as well.
The Georgia Transplant Foundation will match up to $10,000 of whatever Wayt can raise on her own by Feb. 18, 2009.
Once she raises $5,000, she can have the surgery, but Wayt said she'd like to raise at least $10,000. With the $10,000 match from the foundation, she will have $20,000 for medication.
Wayt said she wanted to get the word out about her plight so that if anyone sees a donation jar in a local store, they will know her story is legitimate.
"I want people to know this is for real and this is important," Wayt said. "If anybody is willing to help me, I don't care it's a penny, I don't care if it's a million dollars."
Since her 1994 diagnosis, Wayt has mostly been on peritoneal dialysis, a form of treatment that required the insertion of a catheter into her abdomen. Peritoneal dialysis uses the peritoneum, an area behind the abdomen, which has a natural filter, to remove toxins and excess fluids.
About a year ago, Wayt developed fungal peritonitis, resulting in scarring in her stomach, and she could no longer keep the catheter.
So she switched to hemodialysis, which uses a machine and an artificial kidney/filter for removal of toxins and excess fluids, a procedure she undergoes three times a week.
Wayt had a graft inserted into her leg to receive the treatment, since the veins in her upper arms were not strong enough. Grafts in her lower arms have stopped working, she said.
"This is basically it for me," she said. "If the graft goes out, that's it. That's the reason it's kind of important to get the money going."
Anyone who would like to send a donation should send a check or money order to the Georgia Transplant Foundation at 3125 Presidential Parkway, Suite 230, Atlanta, GA 30340.
Donors should write "For Transplant Recipient Bobbi Wayt" in the memo of the check or money order.
To learn more about the Georgia Transplant Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides financial and educational assistance to people undergoing or waiting for a transplant, visit www.gatransplant.org.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.