- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 13, 2009

Every Saturday, Randall Graham’s son, Jordan, pulls him out of bed to hit the streets. Most Saturdays Mr. Graham is reluctant and tired, but the 9-year-old is persistent.

Mr. Graham, 46, of Montgomery Village walks around outside the Shady Grove Metro Station taping fliers to posts, while Jordan paces the sidewalk asking bystanders to take notice of the printed messages.

Jordan did not lose a pet, nor is he peddling a product or collecting cash for a local ballclub. He is seeking help. He wants to save his dad’s life.

Ten years ago, Jordan’s father, Mr. Graham, was diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerulonephritis, a disease that prevents his kidneys from filtering his blood properly.

After Mr. Graham was diagnosed, his condition soon put him at the mercy of a dialysis machine, three days a week for four hours at a time.

The situation continued for seven years until one night Mr. Graham received a 2 a.m. call on Friday, March 10, 2006.

“You don’t forget the day you receive a transplant,” Mr. Graham said. “That’s one day you will never forget.”

“At that time, I didn’t know who could be calling, but I figured it must be important,” he said. “I picked up the phone and it was Washington Hospital Center. They said they had found a donor and they wanted me to come in.”

Mr. Graham came in that night and was prepped to receive the kidney the next day. The kidney had come from a gunshot victim who had wanted to donate his organs. Mr. Graham and another man received kidneys that day.

“I was so happy,” Mr. Graham said. “I was so grateful to the family and the young man, and I wanted to thank them, but because of the hospital’s policy I was not able to do so. I just wanted to let them know that because of his sacrifice, a part of him was still living in me.”

For a while, Mr. Graham felt reborn: The nightmare that had consumed his life was gone. He regained the energy he had lost, and he felt he could resume living a normal life with his wife and young son.

Then, Mr. Graham’s kidneys began to fail again. The doctors could not explain the problems. Soon after, Mr. Graham’s problems returned and the new kidney failed.

Now, three years later, Mr. Graham is left struggling from years of dialysis that have left him unable to work because of constant fatigue.

“I won’t lie. Sometimes I get scared,” Mr. Graham said. “Sometimes I wonder where I will be able to receive the treatments when my arms wear out. I worry about not being around to see my son grow up.”

His wife, Talisha Graham, is a parent educator at an alternative middle school for troubled students, and she juggles other jobs as well. She says she stands by her husband’s side with the help of her family, her work and the knowledge that the fight is what keeps him going.

“I’m actually excited. When he was first diagnosed with the disease, he was very down and out about it,” Mrs. Graham said. “Now he is very upbeat about spreading the news. It is great that he can advocate for himself and others.”

“I have a really big family, and a lot of them are supportive,” Mrs. Graham said. “If I didn’t have them, I would go insane, but my mom cooks dinner, and my aunt takes care of Jordan.”

Mrs. Graham said Jordan is doing well considering the circumstances. She said that while he struggles at times, his performance and good behavior at school does not reveal any of the problems at home.

Still, Mr. Graham is not willing to give up, and neither is Jordan. And this is what drives them to the streets.

“Come on, get up, Dad,” Jordan says to his father in the morning. “We have to hand out fliers so we can save you.”

Jordan even goes into local stores and asks if he can put up his fliers to save his dad, Mr. Graham said.

As Mr. Graham speaks to people about his condition, and informs people about being an organ donor, he says he asks not only for himself, but for others.

He said the two of them stand on the street regularly, petitioning for help as the crowd continues to move.

Some pass by and listen for a moment, and others give no notice, but he keeps trying.

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