HARKER HEIGHTS — Nearly two decades ago, retired Sgt. 1st Class Edward Diggs was diagnosed with hepatitis C. While he could keep the virus in check, the harsh treatment of the disease caused his kidneys to fail ultimately.
“I was tired all the time, I had to sit down, I just didn’t have energy,” Diggs said, who had served in the U.S. Army for 22 years. “Most days, I just didn’t feel good.”
Since his kidneys couldn’t filter his blood anymore to remove harmful waste products and excess fluid, Diggs started dialysis treatment at the Fresenius Kidney Care Harker Heights before switching to hemodialysis — a form of dialysis performed at home.
Still, the Harker Heights resident didn’t see much improvement in his overall wellbeing.
Diggs’s son, Eric Diggs, who currently lives in Indiana with his family, knew he wanted to help his father despite the physical distance. However, he didn’t immediately see how this support would look like.
“I’ve heard of people being on dialysis, but I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on when I found out that his kidneys were failing,” Eric Diggs said.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, a “living donation” takes place when a living person donates an organ for transplantation to another person. A living kidney donation is usually the best option for people who need a new kidney since the wait time for a transplant can be months and years.
Statistics from the Health Resources & Services Administration show that over 90,000 patients were on the waitlist for a kidney in 2020, but less than 23,000 transplants were received.
“It was one of those things where I was just too happy to be able to volunteer my kidney to him,” Eric Diggs said. “My dad has always been there for me. He is a really good guy. I was very young as my mom passed away, but my dad wasn’t the type to … give me to grandparents or somebody else. He manned up and took care of his responsibilities and always took care of me.”
Now Eric Diggs felt like it was time to take care of his father.
After initially declining his son’s offer, Diggs came around and accepted the donation, but the Covid-19 shutdown and the temporary ban of all elective surgeries postponed the procedure for 18 months.
Because of the wait, Diggs was on dialysis for more than three years.
Although he never complained, his son found out through his stepmother that his father wasn’t in good shape.
“He is just not the type of guy to make anybody else worry, you know,” Eric Diggs said.
As the wait for a surgery appointment was finally over, the VA took care of all logistics and financial burdens, including transportation, procedure and medication.
“It was awesome,” Diggs said. “All I had to do was sign up for it.”
Diggs and his son had to take multiple tests before the procedure, which took place at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston on Aug. 3
“Everything worked out beautifully,” Eric Diggs said. “It’s just such an honor to be able to help him. People say they love each other and things like that, but I feel like being able to put love into action … means so much more, and I’ve just been so happy to be able to give back to the one I consider my hero.”
After the procedure, Edward Diggs had to stay in the hospital for one week and locally in Houston for the following weeks to get regular lab work and follow-up check-ups. His son was able to return home to Indiana after one week in the hospital.
“My spirit changed overnight,” he said. “It’s a difference like night and day. My son gave me a second life.”
With his new energy, Diggs wants other patients to stay positive as well.
“I want all of them to know that all things are possible,” he said. “Continue to believe that you will receive a kidney one day and don’t give up. I had the desire in my heart to receive a kidney, and I did … I was just fortunate to have a son that donated his kidney to me.”
Living kidney donation is the best option for people who need a new kidney. According to the National Kidney Foundation, donors need to be in good physical and mental health and should be 18 years or older.