Thanksgiving blessing: Local man receives new kidney after years wait

Jim Peggs flashes a thumbs up after surgery to receive a new kidney earlier this month.

BUCKHANNON — A local man is counting his blessings this Thanksgiving with a new kidney.

After 16 days of good news and setbacks, Jim Peggs headed home Wednesday, just in time to celebrate the holiday with family and friends.

On Election Day, Nov. 6, Peggs received word that a donor kidney was a good match and he and his wife Prisilla, headed to Charleston Area Medical Center where he underwent surgery late that night and into the early morning hours of Nov. 7.

The surgery was a success but over the next two weeks, Peggs had several setbacks that delayed his homecoming. The kidney, while healthy, was slow in waking up and he even landed back in ICU from complications.

A week stay turned into two weeks.

In many ways, Peggs’ hospital stay parallels the last few years of dealing with kidney disfunction. 

Jim Peggs was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, a kidney disease where IgA – the protein made by the immune system to protect the body from foreign substances such as bacteria or viruses – can cause problems when it builds up in the kidneys, causing inflammation that damages kidney tissues, according to the National Institute of Health.

For Peggs, the diagnosis came at the age of 17 when he had a seizure, according to his wife Prisilla.

“When they tested him, it was because the kidney toxins had taken over and that as why he was dizzy and lightheaded and had the seizure,” she said. “All of his toxins at that time were just going back into his body.”

But from 1981 to 2010, Peggs sustained his diagnosis with medication.

“In 2010, he became unemployed when a business in Buckhannon became bankrupt,” she said. “He had worked there for 37 years.”

The stress from that job loss began to take a toll on Peggs.

The kidney function went down to 12 percent, meaning Peggs had to take more medicine and he went on disability.

In 2012, a surgeon created a fistula in Pegg’s arm that would allow him to do dialysis when the time came. If the kidney function dropped below 10 percent – which it did six months later- dialysis would be needed.

Peggs was presented with two options – dialysis at a clinic which takes three to four hours and places a greater burden on the body or PD dialysis which he could do at home.

Peggs chose the latter and would take a half an hour at a time in a room or vehicle with the vents closed. There could be no dust and the area had to be sanitized.

The process took about half an hour, something that Peggs would repeat four to five times a day for the next four years.

“It was an inconvenience but it kept him healthy,” she said. “Then we were getting to where that wasn’t working so well,” she said.  “It was taking enough toxins out of his body but it wasn’t making his kidneys function better.”

During this time Peggs was getting sicker due to the IgA nephropathy but his symptoms were internal.

“To look at my husband, you couldn’t tell he was sick,” she said.

But Peggs was getting sicker inside and the PD dialysis stopped working, so Peggs was placed on a cycling machine for 10 hours a day.

“For the last year, he has been doing the cycler,” she said. “He hooked it up at night with three very, very large bags of solution. Once he does that, he was not to allowed to unhook at all for 10 hours.”

Despite all the different treatments the Peggs know that what ultimately needed to happen was a kidney transplant, but again it seemed like there were always setbacks.

Peggs has been on a donor list since 2014 and shortly after got a call but the kidney died before the Peggs could get to Charleston for the procedure.

Another call would not come until 2017.

A friend offered a kidney but ended up having a medical issue and could not donate.

“She wanted to do that for Jimmy and we have had several others of our best friends and other family members who wanted to be tested but for whatever reason they have not been able to  donate,” she said.

In October 2017, the call came but Peggs declined it due to a 1 percent chance the donor had another disease Peggs could potentially contract.

“We didn’t want to take that chance, so we declined it,” Prisilla said.

Peggs went back on the list and Prisilla asked for more prayers that a suitable donor kidney could be found.

“A very dear friend came forward that wanted to stay anonymous but was a perfect match,” she said. “Unfortunately, that person could not donate either.”

During this time, Prisilla said they were truly touched by all the people who offered to donate even though it did not work out.

“The selflessness and the risk they were willing to take for their own bodies to donate – it’s a harder surgery on the donor than on the recipient,” she said.

But when that did not work out, the Peggs were back on the list and a few days later, Election Day, another donor match for Peggs showed up in the registry.

“They called and said we have the perfect kidney for Jimmy,” she said.

Prisilla, a deputy county clerk, was busy with Election Day but after getting the OK to leave from her boss, county clerk Carol Smith, immediately went home to pack and head to Charleston with her husband.

“We were in Charleston by 3 p.m. and the surgery began about 9 p.m.,” she said.

Although the surgery was a success, the complications would not stop.

Peggs underwent dialysis after the transplant to remove the toxins that had backed up in his system.

Finally, the kidney began to wake up after that first dialysis treatment and began to function.

“Pastor Ed McDaniels came down and prayed over Jimmy and us, his family,” she said. “Within probably an hour to an hour and a half, his urine count had doubled.

Slowly over the last few days, Peggs has made progress until he got the OK to leave Wednesday.

It’s been a tough couple weeks for the Peggs but they are grateful for everything that has happened so far.

“I just don’t know how we can ever thank the people who have tried to donate,” she said.

And then there is the family of the male donor who passed away but his kidney is now making it possible for Peggs to get a new lease on life with a healthy kidney.

“How can we ever say thank you enough to his family for being so gracious with a gift of something that was to let Jimmy live?” she asked. “I just don’t know how to say thank you to them.”

For now, that thank you will be in a letter that the donor’s family will receive.

The road to recovery for Peggs means there will be medicines he will take for the rest of his life to keep his body from rejecting the donor kidney.

“Now, it’s just starting to hit him,” she said. “He said, “I’ve got a kidney. I will be able to do all these things that I want to do that I haven’t been able to for years.”

To help with medical expenses, friends have set up a Paypal  account at paypal.me/prisillapeggs.

Cash donations only are also being accepted at First Community Bank and Progressive Bank that will be put into Peggs account. Cards and donations can also be sent to Burl Peggs 2 Light Chapel Road. Buckhannon, WV 26201.

More In Local News