Kidney recipient fights for life

MOULTRIE — A young Moultrie man clings to life in a Thomasville hospital as his body wars with the consequences of a lifetime of dialysis.

Anthony Shealey, who turned 23 on April 18, has spent a lot of time in hospitals, including a stint in 1997 when his mother gave him one of her own kidneys

Shealey was born premature with multiple health problems, including a heart murmur and underdeveloped kidneys, his mother, Shanta Goodwin, told The Observer in 2002. While both kidneys weren’t fully developed due to his premature birth, she said, one was more developed than the other. When he was 8, the good kidney quit working.

By the age of 15, he had had 16 surgeries.
Because his remaining kidney functioned poorly, Shealey also had to undergo dialysis. He was hooked to a machine that removed blood from his body, filtered it and put it back. And he repeated the three-to-four-hour process three times a week until his mother learned she could donate her kidney to him and give him a chance for a vastly better life.

The surgery went well, and five years later Shealey celebrated with a cookout covered by The Observer in 2002.

But the joy wasn’t to last. In 2005, his body rejected the kidney and he had to go back onto dialysis, where he remains.

Without dialysis, Shealey and many others like him would die, but the procedure carries its own risks. A permanent port must be made into the body so that the blood can flow to and from the dialysis machine. Infections are common, and Goodwin said her son has had more than a few. “He’s run out of places for them to do it,” she said in an interview Thursday.

A permanent port was recently inserted, she said, but it soon clogged up. Plans were made to open it back up, but before they could be put in action, his latest round of illness struck about a month ago.
Shealey was hospitalized at Archbold Memorial Hospital for the infection, got better and was released. Soon thereafter, though, he was back with a complaint of chest pains. Doctors discovered blood clots in his lungs.

“They thought he wasn’t going to make it,” Goodwin said.

While treating the blood clots, doctors found bacteria in his blood. He improved enough to leave the Intensive Care Unit and spent seven or eight days in a regular hospital room, his mother said. Then doctors found more blood clots, this time on his liver. The clots had redirected the flow of blood, cutting it off from part of the liver. He returned to ICU.

The illnesses he was fighting took a further toll. A colon flare-up prevented bowel movements, Goodwin said, and when Shealey was finally able to go, he passed blood and clots.

When Goodwin spoke to The Observer by phone Thursday, she was waiting for a “stomach doctor” to release her son from the ICU.
“He’s better than yesterday and the day before,” she said.

The strain on Goodwin shows in her voice. She now lives in Augusta, but she’s been at Archbold Medical Center for two weeks straight. Plans to swap out with other family members haven’t worked out, in part because of other illnesses. She said her mother, Rebecca Butler of Moultrie, has tried to sit in the hospital room with him, but she’s a diabetic with heart problems.

“Beetween Anthony and her and my brother, there’s just three sick people in the house,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin’s brother is himself recovering from brain cancer, she said.

The financial strain is wearing too. Goodwin’s employers have been asking when she’ll return. She had expected to early this week, before Shealey took a turn for the worse. She said she’s an assistant team leader and at some point her employer will have to give someone else that responsibility because of her absence. Then, when she does return, she’ll be making less money because of it.