Bernice Hicks says she wants her shopping and lunch partner back.
Suffering from a failing kidney, her best friend of more than 20 years, Wilhemenia Luke Freeman, can no longer get out to hit the store sales or meet Hicks for their favorite lunch desert, cheesecake.
"I've missed out on a lot of things," said Freeman, of Appling. "Since I've been sick, of course, you are depressed and you don't want to do anything. My whole lifestyle has changed."
Freeman said she's known for years her kidneys were failing from a lifetime of hypertension. Since Feb. 14, she's been restricted to dialysis at a Grovetown nephrology center three times a week.
Freeman, a member of Solid Rock Baptist Church in Appling, said a kidney transplant cannot be scheduled until enough money for the post-surgery medications is in place.
"The problem is the medication. The rejection medication is astronomical," said Hicks, adding that Freeman will need 28 to 33 pills per day to keep her body from rejected a transplanted kidney. "It is so expensive. You have to come up with some of the money first."
That's where Hicks and others hope to help out with a fundraising gospel concert slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Gospel Water Branch Baptist Church on Furys Ferry Road, where Hicks is a member.
Hicks said the concert line-up will include performances by the Solid Rock Baptist Church Gospel Chorus, the Oakey Grove Baptist Church Ensemble, the Gospel Water Branch Baptist Church Combined Choir and the Swanee Quintet.
The event is free, but donations benefitting Freeman's surgery and medical costs will be accepted.
Hicks said she's eager to get Freeman back to normal because she already has a trip to New York planned with her. Currently, Freeman says dialysis trips take away her freedom to get out and enjoy life.
"I can't stand it," she said of the four-hour dialysis sessions. "... It's just awful knowing every day I have to be committed to this machine until something can change."
When Hicks attended her granddaughter's recent graduation, she said she knew she had to do something to help Freeman, who has Medicaid and takes care of her husband, Robert, who is homebound with emphysema.
"It was just so wonderful and so gratifying. I want Nina to experience that," said Hicks, adding that Freeman's only granddaughter, Taylor Jenkins, is 9. "I want her to be healthy. I want her to see that. I want her to be there."
As soon as the needed funds are raised, Freeman has a living kidney donor waiting - her daughter Lakeisha Freeman, of Appling, who said the decision to donate her kidney was not difficult.
"Not when it is your Momma," she said.
The two haven't been tested, but they feel they are likely a tissue match. If not, Freeman said her niece also has agreed to be tested.
Hicks said that if she could she'd give Freeman the money for the medications.
"I just want this for her," Hicks said. "... She has the gift of a good life and a good family."
Hicks has opened accounts in the name of Wilhemenia Luke Freeman Kidney Trust Fund at SunTrust and First Bank. Donations can be made to the fund at any SunTrust or First Bank location.
Freeman said she's been grateful for the outpouring of support she's received from her church, friends and family.
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