Hi, I’m Gary. I’m a son, brother, husband, a father of five, grandfather to fifteen (known as Boppa), and an uncle. I live in a small town in Washington where I work as a freelance graphic designer and occasionally coach community sports. I would say my life has been pretty average: I work hard, spend time with my family, and love watching my children grow. Life seemed normal until I was diagnosed in 2002 with IgA Nephropathy, a kidney disease that has no cure. Basically, my kidney disease makes it hard for my kidneys to filter properly.
This disease progresses slowly. I was told that I should prepare for a transplant within the next 10 years. In the meantime, I learned all that I could by attending classes to learn about dialysis and transplant options. My family was tested to see if they could be possible donors. Unfortunately, none of my family members would be able to donate.
With no luck so far, I posted on Facebook asking for possible donors. The response was overwhelming: Over 30 people were willing to be tested on my behalf. As friends and strangers were beginning to go through tests, I began to worry about the eventual costs of surgeries and hospital stays. I was self-employed at the time and even took on a second job as a school bus driver for the health insurance. My children understood my concerns and organized fundraising events to help pay for some of the medical costs. Our community banded together and I was so appreciative of the time, money, and talents they sacrificed to better my family and me.
Even with the amazing support, I knew that I still needed to be able to help myself. As a graphic designer who had been designing shirts for various sports teams and organizations for years, I thought using my skills to create shirts that furthered my cause was appropriate.
I wanted my shirts to reflect the strongest emotion I felt through the entire battle for my health: gratitude. Other emotions that accompanied my gratitude were of course fear, shock, and disappointment, but through my trials, I still found reasons to be thankful every single day. I felt thankful to be alive, thankful that I could still work, thankful for the time I could spend with my friends and family, and thankful for modern medicine and technology that could help me. I was so thankful to the friends, family, and strangers that gave their unyielding support. The Be Thankful Today T-shirts were a symbol of my gratitude that could now help me pay my way to a healthier life. We were able to sell our shirts on Facebook, at local community events, and at school bazaars. We had a fantastic fundraiser!
Since my first round of the Be Thankful Today T-shirts, I’ve had a 10-day stay in the hospital, a heart attack, many rounds of dialysis, and finally, a successful kidney transplant! Through all of my health issues, I have finally come out the other side feeling great and still thankful!