Family in need

As a type 1 diabetic, Lamont “Willis” McKenzie is preparing for a pancreas and kidney transplant and he and his family are turning to the community for financial assistance as his wife, Nicole Henderson McKenzie, is a kidney transplant match, and both will be out of work.
Willis explained that he was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic 20 years ago. He said he was using the restroom a lot, so he went to a hospital in High Point.
“At the time, I didn’t know anything about diabetes,” he said.
Since that time, Willis, who celebrated his 40th birthday this year, has managed his diabetes by giving himself injections three times a day and taking eight prescription drugs.
Nicole and Willis met on July 4, 2009 through Myspace after she lost her son in February that year.
“I was confused and lonely and looking for friends and a distraction,” she said, noting that the same day she started the Myspace account she met Willis.
Little did Willis and Nicole know that they were a match in more ways than one.
Through monthly checkups, Willis said he learned that his pancreas and kidneys were failing and he would soon need to go on dialysis and have a double transplant.
“Several months ago, we were referred to Transplant Services of Baptist Health and, without much knowledge, we found ourselves educating on transplantation,” Nicole said. “This process has been lengthy but wonderful and is definitely needed. We have met some extraordinary people and learned a lot.”
After getting a request and approval for a transplant in September, they began the search for a living organ donor who could offer Willis a kidney.
“His first application was completed by me without hesitation,” Nicole said. “The most meaningful call I have ever received was the one letting me know that not only were we compatible in marriage and in life, but we were also compatible for transplantation. I think I cried over everything for the entire week. How amazing it is to be able to help someone in the most important way.”
She noted that the pancreas will have to come from a diseased donor.
“Now, we are waiting on his body to reach the point that he actually needs the transplant. They are holding off as long as they can,” she said. “The life expectancy of a kidney from a living donor is 20 years and they want to maximize that time.”
Once Willis receives his new kidney, Nicole said doctors will probably wait until his body has had some time to heal before going under the knife again for a pancreas transplant. She said once she and Willis go through the transplant process, they will both be out of work for some time, with Willis being out of work for at least one year.
Having to both be out of work with four children won’t be an easy task. Nicole said they have a daughter that just turned 21, and three other children, ages 13, 11 and 5.
“It was suggested through the transplant process that we start asking for help early because it’s very expensive,” Nicole said, adding that Willis is their primary source of income. “He’s already on eight prescriptions, going to three doctor visits a month, and has to purchase the test meters, testing strips, and insulin strips. Every little thing costs,” she said. “There have been times in the process that we have had to skip doctors’ appointments because of the cost. As his situation worsens we need to ask for help.”
While they are saving everything they can, Nicole said they also started a GoFundMe page for anyone willing to donate to their cause.
Despite all that Willis is going through, he said he tries not to show how hard it is.
“I do as much as possible for the family and work hard every day. For the last two years, I’ve had perfect attendance at work. People look at me and don’t see it. I go to work and I don’t complain,” he said. “I don’t feel good, but I do what I have to do.”
Nicole added, “He works very hard at a very demanding production job every day to make sure his kids have everything they need. The week before Christmas, he worked 67 hours without skipping a beat to ensure our home was filled with Christmas magic and (the kids) all had gifts to unwrap.”
She continued.
“Providing for his family, gives him enough strength to make it through each day, week, month and year despite his disease and the toll it is taking on his body both mentally and physically. He also makes it a priority to maintain our yard upkeep and home and auto maintenance requirements. He never misses a first day of school, graduation, or any opportunity to be present in all the things that matter the most.” 
Nicole said she and Willis are now both preparing for surgery.
“We know everything is going to be okay. We have a growing family and this process has strengthened all of us,” she said. “We are thankful for all of our family and friends that have supported us, listened to us, encouraged us and let us know that we are not alone. We are fortunate and inspired and are looking forward to our future. If you can help, we would be ever so grateful.”
To help the McKenzie family visit, and search “McKenzie Family Kidney and Pancreas Transplant.”

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