Mary Jefferson has been an insulin-dependent diabetic for more than 20 years and has recovered from quadruple bypass surgery performed in January 2006.
Now she only needs one more thing: a new kidney.
"(The doctor) said five years, if they last that long," the Appling resident said.
Jefferson said doctors recommended a year ago that she begin saving and raising money for the $10,000 minimum needed for her to be put on the list to receive a donated kidney to replace her failing ones.
"At least enough money they say will pay for my medicine," Jefferson said. "They said if I couldn't get the medicine, there wasn't any sense in me getting the transplant because one is just as bad as the other. They won't give it to me without (the money).
"They say it is defeating the purpose."
Jefferson's 22-year-old daughter, Regina, said the one anti-rejection medication Jefferson will need costs $2,000 a month, and that's after health insurance has paid its part.
Jefferson is up by 5 a.m. three days a week to make sure Regina can drive her to a dialysis center on Deans Bridge Road by 6 a.m. Nearly three hours of dialysis cleans the blood her own kidneys can't.
Jefferson, 54, left her job in the dietary department of University Hospital in June 2000, after nearly 30 years.
After two years of visiting doctors and enduring tests to determine the reason for her mysterious swelling and fluid retention and getting no clear answers, Jefferson said she switched doctors
"What really shocked me was as soon as they started running the tests, they immediately told me, 'We think you have some blockages somewhere,'" she said, adding that doctors soon diagnosed her as having congestive heart failure.
Jefferson, whom her family said always has a big smile and upbeat attitude, began dialysis in February 2006, while still in the hospital recovering from bypass surgery.
"You have to make the best of what you have," Jefferson's daughter said. "You can't sit and dwell."
Several of Jefferson's large family, including her daughter and her sister, Doris Diane Jones, have already agreed to be tested as a possible kidney donor for Jefferson.
"Whatever it takes," said Jones, who helps Jefferson get to her numerous doctors and clinic appointments when Jefferson's daughter can't take her.
But Jefferson can't be put on the list to receive a kidney until she's raised enough money.
"I started, but it is going a little slow," Jefferson said, adding that she's used her cooking skills to put on a fish fry and a fried chicken dinner as fundraisers.
Jefferson's daughter said a yard sale benefiting the kidney fund was recently held and a car wash is in the works.
A donation jar has been set up at Charlie Williams Auto Glass on Shartom Drive in Augusta, and family members often donate items for Jefferson's dinner fundraisers.
"It takes a good little bit of doing," Jefferson said of saving the $10,000. "Any little bit is a help."
Jefferson said she's planning to use her cooking skills again by planning a rib dinner and a spaghetti dinner.
While she raises money for the transplant, she said she tries to stay positive.
"I might as well," Jefferson said. "There's no point in sitting up making yourself sick about it. I put my right foot forward and keep going. I say my prayers and keep going."
That positive attitude is easy to keep up when Jefferson sees fellow dialysis patients who have gotten their transplants and are doing well.
"I know three people that have had their transplants already and have come back (to the dialysis center) to talk about it," Jefferson said. "They walk around and let you know, it can be done, even if it doesn't last forever."
Donations are being accepted for Jefferson's kidney transplant at any Wachovia Bank location.
Donations also can be mailed to the Mary Jefferson Kidney Transplant Fund, c/o Wachovia Bank, 4363 Washington Road, Evans GA 30809.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.