Meet James & Tracy Spraggins. James, or PJ, is a professional musician and Tracy is a special education teacher. They’ve been married for 10 years. Tracy has been dealing with Lupus since the age of six. Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that, in Tracy’s case, makes her body’s immune system attack her kidney functions.
After Tracy’s kidney functions dipped below fifteen percent in late 2013, her name was placed on the National Kidney Transplant list. According to the Living Kidney Donors network, there are over 93,000 people waiting for kidney transplants of their own and the list has average wait time of six to seven years. In an effort to help Tracy in any way he could, James decided to go through the extensive evaluation process of being a kidney donor to Tracy.
Now 39, Tracy was placed on the transplant list in 2013 – just a few months after her 34-year-old sister, who also had lupus, died following complications from a kidney transplant. Knowing that the seven-year wait might be too long, PJ, a self-employed musician, submitted himself for the weeks-long evaluation to assess whether he could donate his kidney.
However, the good news was laced with disappointment as doctors said his size at 265 pounds meant the operation couldn’t go ahead.
“They said I was a perfect match but they wanted to check I was healthy and met their requirements. They sent me a blood pressure monitor, but they didn’t like the numbers.”
“That was a real kick in the gut,” said PJ devastated.
The doctors advised PJ, who weighed 265lbs, to lose 30 pounds before returning for an evaluation.
He did – but on the day of the test he changed a flat tire.
“My blood pressure was all over the place. The results came back and they said no again.”
But that didn’t stop him.
Next try was a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was told to lose another 60 pounds. It was a year-long effort, but PJ lost another 70 pounds.
Eventually, they made it to Nashville’s Vanderbilt Hospital in December 2014. PJ made sure he did everything he could to ensure the readings were perfect.
“I put that blood pressure monitor on and lay in bed all day. And thankfully, it all came back good,” beamed PJ.
On February 24th, the couple underwent surgery together, and it went perfectly. “The way my kidney function is now, it’s at 100 percent. And it’s at the best it’s ever been,” Tracy told WRBC.
PJ just beams and says: “It has just been amazing. To know that I did everything I could to give my wife a better quality of life is just the best feeling. I am so happy.”
The couple’s friends have now set up a fund to financially support them during the two-month recovery period when they will be unable to work.
PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.