Belleview teenager in desperate need of kidney transplant facing risky surgery

A Belleview teenager in desperate need of a second kidney transplant is facing a somewhat risky surgery this week.

Cole Tumey, an 18-year-old senior at Village View Christian Academy who is in desperate need of a kidney transplant, will have his failing organ removed Wednesday at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville despite the lack of a donor organ.

Cole Tumey, an 18-year-old senior at Village Christian Academy, has been battling extremely high blood pressure and was hospitalized at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville on New Year’s Eve when it hit 191/132 – normal is considered 120/80 – despite the fact that he is on multiple medications to control the issue.

Doctors have spent the past several days trying to get the blood pressure issue under control and eventually made the decision that the only real solution is to remove the kidney that is causing the issue. But that will leave Cole relying solely on dialysis to remove wastes and water from his body until a donor organ is found.

At left, Cole Tumey poses with his mom, Leona Yawn, and with father Chris at right.

Cole’s mother, Leona Yawn, who is a nurse at The Villages VA Outpatient Clinic on Mulberry Lane, said her oldest son was born with end-stage renal failure and when he was two years old, she donated a kidney to him that lasted about 15 years.

“He had great health with very little complications and only took three medications for years,” Leona said. “He was an avid baseball player and coach.”

But things took a bad turn for Cole, an honor student and his school’s peer-selected homecoming king, this past spring when the kidney started to fail. Since that time, he has dealt with chronic high blood pressure, vomiting, seizures, hearing impairment, fatigue and can no longer play sports. He often has been homebound from school. And due to the amount of mediations that he takes – more than 20 – he sleeps a majority of the day and just doesn’t feel well.

Cole Tumey, an honor student at Village View Christian Academy in Belleview, was born with end-stage renal disease and received a kidney from his mother, Leona Yawn, when he was just two years old.

Cole has been able to do peritoneal dialysis at home six days a week, for nine and a half hours a night, along with weekly trips to Shands for hemodialysis. But once his only kidney is removed, Leona said, the option for home dialysis might be off the table.

“Getting a new kidney is the cure,” Leona added. “However, until then, he will have to travel to Gainesville every other day for hemodialysis for five hours.”

Leona, who calls her son “the light in my darkness,” said the high blood pressure issues Cole was dealing with left his doctors little choice in making the decision to remove the failing kidney before a donor organ is found.

“High blood pressure not only puts a huge strain on your heart, it affects small blood vessels, like those in your eyes,” Leona said. “Cole had a (recent) eye appointment and both optical nerves were swollen. If they rupture, or ‘pop,’ he will be blind and there is nothing that can be done to reverse it.”

Cole Tumey gets a visit from Jason and Zachary Smith at UF Health Shands Hospital last week.
Cole Tumey, obviously a fan of the 1993 hit baseball movie “The Sandlot,” will have his failing kidney removed on Wednesday at UF Health Shands Hospital.

Leona said Wednesday’s surgery also comes with risks: “Infection, bleeding and blood clots are some of the major ones,” she said.

Of course, Leona added, the answer to Cole’s problems is to find a donor kidney and get a transplant as soon as possible. She said she received requests for more than 100 living donor packets after a story was published about Cole in in late November. And she’s hoping that even more potential donors will seek packets in the coming days after learning of Cole’s current condition.

Meanwhile, Leona said, Cole’s extremely positive attitude helps keep her, husband Chris and younger son Cage on track.

“Whenever I am nervous and afraid for his circumstances, he reminds me that the Lord our God is by our side. That through every storm, he guides our sails and that he will never leave us alone,” she said of Cole, a self-taught guitar player who performs with the New Identity Community Church band in Belleview on Sunday mornings whenever he can.

Cole Tumey, a Belleview teenager who is in need of a kidney transplant, turned 18 last month. He received a special apple pie from a friend and this message from his mother, Leona Yawn, on her Facebook page: ‘This boy right here has my whole heart. He’s the strongest, bravest, and most political kid I know. I am thankful he is mine. He turned 18 today, he’s now an adult. But forever my first born and my baby. I love you Cole Tumey!’

Leona added that Cole’s bravery and character are defined by this saying: “God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers.” And she said Cole doesn’t worry or express fear about his health issues.

“He pushes through with the power of prayer and the belief in our Savior,” she said. “Cole never asks, ‘Why me?’ or, ‘How come?’ He only reminds me of how far we have come and what successes we have had.”

Cole and his parents also have family friend Tracy Gooden in their court doing everything she can to help find a kidney donor. Gooden’s son, Matthew, played T-ball with Cole many years and ago and they have been friends with him ever since.

“Cole is an incredible young man,” she said, “He has been through so much and he has not let it bring him down.”

Cole Tumey, who was voted homecoming king by his peers at Village View Christian Academy despite missing a great deal of class for medical appointments, poses with friend Tiffany Perry Yerk.
Some of the many well-wishes Cole Tumey has received in his room at UF Health Shands Hospital.

Those interested in being screened as potential kidney donors for Cole are encouraged to text their name and address to Leona at (352) 598-9260. The best candidate will have O or B blood type, but it doesn’t matter if it’s negative or positive. Once potential donors receive the questionnaire from Leona, they can send it directly to Shand’s via Fax or mail.

Those interested in learning more about Cole can follow his story on the Team Cole Facebook page by clicking HERE. And those interested in contributing toward his medical expenses through a GoFundMe account can click HERE.

“I pray that with his continued positive attitude, his faith, and the help of family and friends, that a kidney donor will be found and he will get through this,” Gooden said.

Leona agreed.

“With God, all things are possible,” she said. “Love to everyone and thank you for your prayers.”

Belleview student Cole Tumey’s mother, Leona Yawn, received request for more than 100 living donor packets after a story was published about Cole needing a kidney transplant on in late November.
Cole Tumey is all smiles as he’s surrounded by his little brother, Cage, left, and friends Sunday in his room at UF Health Shands Hospital.