When Angela Coffey sent an urgent email out to her friends and colleagues, she didn’t know who would reply. Of the many emails she sent throughout her years, this one was the hardest for her to compose.
She began her email explaining her story of fighting type 2 diabetes, starting her family, and then only two years after her third child was born, a diagnosis she never expected came — her kidneys were shutting down. Her email was a sincere request for a kidney donor.
Coffey, 37, began her kidney dialysis, going three nights a week after her long days at work at North Naples Fire Department as a full-time administrative assistant. The pain can be excruciating at times, paired with insomnia, and her health issues became more urgent as time went on.
“I have my good weeks and my bad weeks,” says Coffey, as she is on Florida’s Registry for a kidney transplantation — where she waited for almost two years for a donor to match with her blood type. “It’s the scariest thing, just not knowing when it will happen, is all I can say. You’re just waiting in limbo, and that’s the scariest thing for me.”
Turns out, her fears were lessened by brave men who worked close by in the fire station. One by one, they signed up for testing to become kidney donors with Jackson Memorial Hospital. Each firefighter had to endure testing at the Miami hospital, to see their friend and coworker get through the difficult journey to get a new kidney.
“Having worked with her dad, and her brother at the fire department, it’s always been a family feel for me to be a friend to (Angela’s)family,” explained Captain Nick Ford, who was one of the first to sign up to become a donor for Coffey. “It was an easy decision for me.”
“The process was very simple as it was a very simple blood draw,” Ford continued. “My blood and her blood were drawn within 24 hours of each other and shipped to Jackson Memorial Hospital for cross-match and genetic testing. Then the next step after that, was that I drove to Miami for a full day of testing. More blood tests and more EKG’s, CT scans, abdominal X-rays, and a full physical. Within two weeks, they will call to say if we are compatible or not in the six genetic markers, as to whether or not to go forward.”
And if his blood markers don’t pair up, then there are five more firefighters who lined up to help Coffey with a kidney donation. Firefighters Pat Browne, Jeff Morse, Jack Bills, Dale Fey and Paul Manguso all stopped by Coffey’s desk at Fire Station 45 to tell her they would be willing donors.
When asked what advice he would give to others deciding to become organ donors who are undecided, Ford’s answer was simply, “Don’t be afraid of it.” And as there are more than 82,000 people waiting for a kidney transplant in the United States, according to the National Kidney Registry, the decision can be made by living donors who want to change the course of another’s life and provide an ultimate gift of life.
“They shouldn’t be afraid of any impact on their lives. The risks would be the same as with any other surgery. It’s about helping others,” said Ford.
Those who would like to reach out to send caring wishes to Coffey and her family can do so on Facebook at a page started just for her called “Angelas Angels,” or participate in a fundraiser at California Pizza Kitchen at Waterside Shops in North Naples this Friday. The restaurant will donate 20 percent of its proceeds toward Coffey’s kidney transplant costs if customers bring in a flyer, which can be found on the Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002682100254
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If You Go:
Angela’s Angels kidney transplant fundraiser
California Pizza Kitchen - Waterside Shops
555 U.S. 41 N.
Naples, FL 34108
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.