When the aunt of a Cartwright man asked for prayers on a social networking site for her nephew who was suffering from kidney failure, the family had no idea those prayers would be answered so quickly.
The lifesaving pleas made by Ruth Chaney, the aunt of Ray Plunkett, were answered by an old friend’s daughter in Artesia, New Mexico. Chaney had been friends of Cindy Shetterly when she lived in Artesia 17 years ago before moving back to Mississippi. The two had remained in contact and with the aid of Facebook was able to continue that friendship.
When Shetterly’s daughter, Brandi, heard about her mother’s friend needing help, the first thing that went through her mind was to offer a prayer. Brandi, a part-time 911 dispatcher and former Marine then decided she could do more than pray and that’s when she made the decision to donate her kidney.
Plunkett, 38, a graduate of Colbert High School, was diagnosed with a genetic kidney disease when he was 17. The condition caused slow progression that would lead to kidney failure in the next twenty years. The family knew this day would come and his mother, Martha Plunkett, who works at Dr. Dan Craige’s office, always thought she would be the donor. Several years ago those hopes were dashed when she developed diabetes, making her ineligible to be a donor.
There was no treatment or cure for the autoimmune deficiency that destroys the organ’s ability to filter the blood. About three years ago Plunkett began experiencing problems. He was still able to work at his job in the bakery dept. at Sam’s Club, in Sherman, where he has been employed since it first opened. He began dialysis, a treatment he had to take three times a week and each session lasted four hours.
Both families went through some tense times as the work began to make sure Brandi would be compatible. Medical City in Dallas sent a blood test kit to Brandi to check for antibodies and other aspects that could be a determining factor in successful transplanting. The local hospital in Artesia volunteered to do the blood work at no costs.
“I was at work in Dr. Craig’s office when I got the phone call from Brandi,” said Martha. “I let out a sigh of relief when she said they were compatible and we both began crying.”
With the first hurdle cleared, Brandi then had to report to the hospital in Dallas for more testing to make sure she was in good health and physically fit. After an exam she was sent to a psychiatrist to make sure she was mentally ready for the challenge that was before her.
She spent several days staying with the Plunkett family in Cartwright and when the Choctaw Nation found out about the unfolding events, they donated two nights for her and a companion at the resort.
On August 21 the transplant was performed, giving Plunkett a new lease on life and Brandi the satisfaction of knowing she has made a difference in someone’s life. This is not the first time the young former Marine has made a sacrifice for another person. Earlier this year, she quit her job and moved to Canada to care for her grandmother who was dying of cancer.
Brandi served four years in the Marines including a tour in Iraq. She has always remained physically fit and last year entered a marathon to commemorate the Bataan Death March, a 26 mile course. She will return here Oct. 25 for a follow-up medical exam and plans to stay for a Motorcycle Poker Run benefit sponsored by employees at Sam’s Club.
“Brandi will always be a big part of our family,” said Martha. “Everyone who meets her falls in love with her personality and she is someone any parent would want as a daughter.”
Plunkett still has a battle with possible rejection and will be required to take anti-rejection drugs the rest of his life and that may be one of his biggest challenges. The drugs are very expensive and his insurance won’t pay for any drug except generic which his doctors don’t recommend. Medicare pays 20 percent and family and friends have begun trying to raise funds to help. For more information on donating go to http://patients.transplants.org/rayplunkett.