Benefit planned for Wabash County man

By David Brinson

Derrick Shelton has endured a lifetime of medical complications, surgeries and transplants. Currently on dialysis and awaiting his second kidney transplant, Shelton will have a benefit held in his name Saturday, May 18.

“It’s been a rough life, a difficult life,” Shelton said. “But there’s always someone worse off than I am. If I could take pain from someone, I would take it away, because I’ve been through it.”

The benefit begins at 4 p.m. at the Wabash Moose Lodge. A $7 pulled pork dinner will be served, followed by an auction.

Everything from the massages being bid on to the food being used for the event were donated by different people and businesses around Wabash County. The following Monday, May 20, Goodfella’s Pizza will be donating 10 percent of its sales to the cause. All proceeds and donations will go directly to Shelton and his intensive medical bills.

Shelton, 54, first started having medical problems when he was wrung with convulsions and comas as a young boy. At the age of 6, he was diagnosed as a Type 1 severe diabetic.

Despite this, he graduated from Northfield High School, had a family, worked in Florida, rode motorcycles and lived as normal of a life as he could, but as the years passed, his kidneys began to fail all together.

In 2008, after 10 months of dialysis, he had his first transplants, for a pancreas and kidney. The kidney was only projected to last seven years since it was from a deceased donor. In 2015, the kidney rejected, exactly as the doctors had warned. A stroke and congestive heart failure followed. For Shelton, he had no choice but to go back to dialysis.

Dialysis removes water and toxins from the blood of people who no longer have kidneys that can naturally do it for them. Shelton must go three days a week, every week. It takes a half-hour just to hook him up to the machine, two needles in his arm. He sits through four hours of discomfort; his face, neck and legs cramping if they take too much fluid. As he describes the procedure, he shows the wide, weathered valleys of scars on his arms.

“It just drains you,” he said. “It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had.”

Shelton has lost 100 pounds. He can no longer ride motorcycles due to the transplants, but he’s still wearing one of his Harley Davidson shirts. His eyes alone have required 15 different surgeries. One of his medications has now given him skin cancer. In nearly every possible way, his body has failed him. Still, somehow, Shelton never fails to find the bright side.

“I don’t have time to be negative,” he said. “I don’t like to be around negative people. I’m not letting anyone pull me down.”

He attributes his positive outlook to his faith in God and his parents. His mother, Vera Shelton, helped plan the benefit, but his father died in the past year. Shelton especially feels his father’s loss, because he was there for everything, sleeping next to his hospital bed, from when he was a scared little boy all the way to when he was a father himself. Now, Jean Whitmer, his sister-in-law, sits beside him as they discuss the days ahead. The future includes the benefit, a new kidney and the birth of his first grandchild, who is due at the end of June. Shelton plans to be there to help raise his grandson.

There is reason to be optimistic. After a video his sister posted went viral on Facebook last year, they received several inquiries of people sharing Shelton’s O positive blood type and wanting to help. While most fell through after some preliminary medical tests, one woman from California passed all the tests. She reached out directly to Shelton from across the county. Since she is a living donor, the kidney could last the rest of Shelton’s life.

“It takes a lot of heart to volunteer your kidney,” Whitmer said. “She doesn’t even know him.”

“I’d be forever indebted to her,” Shelton added.

When discussing the potential of the new kidney, Whitmer briefly used the word “if.” Shelton quickly corrected her, adding the word “when” in its place, seemingly speaking it into existence. Or, maybe, he’s just praying out loud.
“God will make a way,” he said. “It will happen.”

Posted on 2019 May 14