KANNAPOLIS Police Chief Woody Chavis is used to being awakened in the middle of the night with a telephone call with news about a shooting or a wreck. But unlike most of his officers, Chavis cant just hop out of bed and race out the door.
He suffers from Stage 5 renal disease. He has only one functioning kidney, which is now suffering complications. Every night, before he goes to bed, Chavis hooks himself up to a home dialysis machine.
Many of his officers at the Kannapolis Police Department dont even know he has the disease. Not that he hides it. Chavis just refuses to let it control his life.
The main thing that surprised me was when I went on dialysis, my doctor walked in and looked at me and goes, Youre going to go on dialysis, but contrary to popular belief this is not a death sentence, Chavis said. You can maintain, and you can keep yourself alive, and you can live a basically normal life.
Chavis often shares that thought with other people who are just learning they have kidney issues. He visits a group at DaVita Dialysis Care of Kannapolis and tells them how they can maintain a healthy life.
My poster boy
Kelly Strickland, with DaVita, is Chavis doctor and appreciates him talking to others with kidney issues.
He could be my poster boy, Strickland said. And thats why I am very appreciative he comes in and talks with potential patients. He works. Hes healthy. Hes active. Hes involved in the community, other than his job. And thats what we want to see. We want to see people be able to continue to work and do things they love and I think home dialysis allows people to do that.
Chavis was diagnosed in October 2010. Prior to that, he had an ultrasound and found out that one of the two kidneys he had wasnt functioning and doctors werent sure it ever had worked.
In a lot of cases you dont know you have a problem with one or the other because one is sufficient to maintain, Chavis said. That was the weird thing about it. I never knew I only had one, and when I started having problems with that one, you still dont think about it, until it progressively gets worse. And its kind of like you start feeling worse and worse and worse.
But it comes on so gradually you dont really start to notice it. Its not a sudden thing. Your body gets used to those toxins building up. And when it gets to a certain point, thats when people are in trouble.
In 2010, Chavis felt bad enough to have a doctor check him out. He was having blood pressure issues and swelling. When he went into have some blood work done the doctor sent him to the emergency room immediately.
Now, Chavis balances his job and community activities with exercise and dialysis.
Dialysis for 9 hours a night
Chavis joined the Kannapolis Police Department in February 1983 and was named chief of police in October 2007.
I didnt want to quit because I didnt want people to think thats what was beating me, Chavis said. I didnt want to let this dialysis beat me and just go home and sit down. I wanted to stay active and stay busy and wanted to work.
Chavis has to do dialysis for about nine hours a night, only unhooking his system if he needs to race out to a crime scene. He is on an organ donors list but knows that could be a while before he finds a match.
People dont understand the procedure for getting on a transplant list, Chavis said. Its not just, Hey, I want a transplant. Put me on the list. Its not that easy. They test everything on you to make sure you are a viable candidate. Because they dont want to waste it. They want to make sure you have the right attitude, that you are physically able to be successful.
Doctors have to make sure that if a person gets an organ he or she will treat it properly. For instance, Chavis has to maintain a diet low on foods that contain phosphorous, such as cheese, peanut butter and chocolate.
There are more than 100,000 Americans waiting for life-saving organ transplants of every type, including kidney, liver and heart, and of those more than 90,000 were awaiting kidneys, according to Ellie Schlam, vice president of communications for the National Kidney Foundation.
Last year, there were only 14,507 organ donors, Schlam said. Of those, 7,943 were deceased donors and 6,564 were living.
Schlam said that one deceased donor can save up to eight lives through organ donations, and help maybe 50 more people through tissues donations, such as cornea, bone and skin.
I want people to understand, think about being an organ donor ...because you can really make a difference in somebodys life, Chavis said.
Awaiting the call
Now, when the phone rings late at night, Chavis is not expecting a call telling him to come to a crime scene. Hes hoping its the doctors telling him to rush to Duke University Hospital for a transplant.
There is a six-hour window for how long a kidney can be viable before being transplanted. Because there are so many variables, including a kidney being available and even being a match for Chavis, he knows he has to be ready to go.
Thats another thing the transplant people look at, if you can get there, he said. They call two backups. Three people who are a viable match will get the call.
And if Chavis gets that call he knows he needs to be on the road and headed to Durham for the operation. Or hell lose that kidney to the next person in line.
Its not a competition, but the fact is you are looking for your match. And not only is it waiting in line for a number, you have to find someone who is compatible, Chavis said.
For now, Chavis is waiting on that phone call. He has his own dialysis system at home, but still hopes to get a phone call that sends him racing to Durham for a transplant.
You never feel like you did when its your true kidney doing the work, Chavis said. And thats why you want if at all possible get that transplant, because youve got that hope that its going to put you back like you were.