The agonizing wait for a kidney appears to finally be ending for a Belleview teenager.
Cole Tumey is scheduled to have surgery Tuesday morning at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville. He was supposed to a receive a kidney about a year ago but that surgery had to be called off at the last minute because his blood antigens changed from positive to negative.
That meant that his donor, Amber Ferguson, of Lake City, was no longer a match. Tumey had learned about her plans to donate a kidney to him during a phone call at his father Chris’ 44th birthday party in March 2019.
Ferguson, who works at Shands, became extremely close friends with Tumey and his family and eventually entered into a program where she would donate a kidney to someone else in need and Tumey would get his much-needed organ.
“She’s said from day one that God told her she was going to be involved with Cole getting a kidney,” said Tumey’s mother, Leona Yawn, who is a nurse at The Villages VA Outpatient Clinic. “Thanks all to her, he is!”
Yawn said her 19-year-old son, who relies strongly on his faith in God and is a member of New Identity Community Church in Belleview, is receiving the kidney from a healthy 33-year-old donor who is in the same program Ferguson joined.
“We are asking that you please continue to support Cole in this journey by lifting Cole, the hospital staff, the donor and Amber up in prayer,” Yawn posted on Facebook.
Tuesday’s transplant will mark the second one for Tumey, who was born with end-stage renal failure. He received one of Yawn’s kidneys when he was 2-year-old and it functioned well for about 15 years.
But that kidney eventually started malfunctioning and had to be removed in January 2019 after Tumey started experiencing serious health issues, including extremely high blood pressure that medications could no longer control.
Moving forward, the graduate of Village Christian Academy and self-taught guitar player will be on home quarantine for six months following the surgery. His family also will be quarantined at home for six weeks to help Tumey avoid coming into contact with any potential illnesses or infections.
“The common cold could be critical and even kill him if he contracted it after the transplant,” Yawn said.
On Sunday, family and friends gathered outside Tumey’s house for a praise and prayer service. It was heavily attended and social distancing was in play because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“No words can describe the love felt tonight,” Yawn wrote, referring to those who attended the event or watched it live on the church’s Facebook page. “Our family is humbled by the outpouring of support and love.”
Yawn said they didn’t notice at first, but during the event a rainbow formed over their home. She said it was “lighting the sky of Jesus’ love and promise of a new future for Cole.”
On Monday, Tumey completed what hopefully will be his final dialysis session. Yawn said she can’t thank the nurses, staff and friends enough that her son has made at the hospital during his three-times-a-week dialysis sessions.
“Thank you to so many of you for helping orchestrate rides back and forth and being vital to our family,” Yawn wrote on Facebook, while encouraging others to consider organ donation.
On Sunday night after the prayer event ended, Tumey told his mother that he was very appreciate to have God by his side during his often-difficult journey.
“I have struggled with fear, defeat, the pain of dialysis, the inability to do things others my age do like drive due to the seizures I have from dialysis,” he said. “But I’ve never felt alone. I’ve never felt abandoned.”
Tumey added that God has shown him “many miracles” along the way.
“He’s always been with me,” he said. “I really appreciate everyone else being by my side during this time and praying for me.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up for those who wish to help Tumey and his family with medical expenses and the long recovery process. As of Monday night, $1,720 of the $5,000 goal had been given by 12 donors. To make a donation, click HERE.