ROCKFORD | A second life.
That’s what Jim Moore of Rockford said a kidney and a pancreas transplant would mean for him.
“I never asked for either of these,” he said in an email interview with the Globe Gazette. “I am active. I rarely eat sugar, and now, I have two health problems that are out of my control.”
Moore, 35, has had Type 1 diabetes since he was 12 years old, and in January 2017, he was diagnosed with beginning Stage 3 chronic kidney disease that has since advanced to end Stage 5 chronic kidney disease.
“Before my ER visit, there wasn't any suspicion,” he said.
Moore’s girlfriend, now fiancée, Sammi Jo Barlow, found him “extremely sweaty” and “not responding to any questions” one afternoon in late December 2016. When he started to have a seizure, she realized his blood sugar was low and called 911.
An ambulance transferred Moore to the emergency room at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa, where he awoke and learned his blood sugar had dropped to a “dangerous level” that could’ve resulted in a coma or death.
His urine test revealed he had beginning Stage 3 chronic kidney disease.
“I was so angry with my diagnosis,” he said.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, the two main causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure, which account for up to two-thirds of the cases.
Moore’s diagnosis led to a flurry of conversations about medications, surgeries and dialysis.
Currently, he takes about 20 pills a day and can’t eat potassium, which means no potatoes, oranges, bananas, tomatoes or tomato products.
“It was really hard to get used to,” he said.
The next step?
A kidney transplant, and then, a pancreas transplant.
“The kidney is just the beginning,” he said. “Once I get a new pancreas, it'll be a chance to live without diabetes for the first time in over 20 years!”
Moore said he has to complete a couple more tests at Mayo Clinic in Rochester and Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines before he’s placed on their transplant lists.
The need for a kidney transplant is urgent, he said, adding family and friends have been approached about donating one to him. The pancreas transplant, which would come from a deceased donor, would be done at least a year after his kidney transplant.
“The doctors are against starting me on dialysis because they have told me that I'm a young, healthy man,” he said. “The only thing holding me back is my kidneys and my pancreas. I'm otherwise completely healthy.”
Barlow said the past year has been a rollercoaster for her and Moore, who have been engaged since September and have been together for five and a half years.
“When most newly engaged couples are trying to figure out what colors the tablecloths should be at their wedding, we're trying to figure out how to pay for medical bills, but we are also falling more in love,” she said.
Since Moore was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, the couple has used up much — if not all — of their vacation time for doctor’s appointments.
Moore works at North Iowa Fabrication in Rockford and serves as a volunteer firefighter with the Rockford Fire Department. Barlow is employed at Cedar River Harley-Davidson in Charles City.
To relieve some of the financial burden, Barlow and Moore’s sister, Kelsey, have organized a benefit ahead of his transplants.
“I just want Jim to not have any worries about medical bills or any other bills while we're both off work for about a month,” Barlow said. “I also want him to know that we love him and care about him being healthy.”
The benefit will take place Saturday at Rudd Gymnasium, 501 Floyd St. The event will feature a freewill donation bake sale and supper as well as silent and live auctions.
Proceeds from the benefit will go toward Moore’s medical bills and care after he receives his transplants.
Barlow hopes the event will also raise awareness about Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes.
“(Jim) is my best friend, and some people think Type 1 diabetes isn’t a serious disease, but the truth is, I can lose him any day if his blood sugar drops and he’s alone,” she said. “It scares me every day.”
Moore said he’s grateful for the support he’s already received from family and friends, especially Barlow, who has saved his life multiple times.
“I don't know what I would do without her,” he said.
Barlow said she, too, is thankful for the help she’s received from family, friends and members of the Rockford Fire Department.
“I'm so glad we have such a great support system,” she said.