Learning to Live on Dialysis and Inspiring Those Around Him

Will has been living on dialysis for 11 years and there is no cure for his rare disease. But he and his friends don’t let that stop them from doing what they can to make a difference.

“That’s how dialysis works. It functions as an organ. If I don’t have that organ, I don’t live. So I saw it as a gift, a big gift.”

Video Transcript

In 2008, Will was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease. His friends started a backyard barbecue to raise money for a cure. Now, thousands of people attend the Tampa Pig Jig every year.

Will Wellman: You want to go backstage when we do the check presentation?

Will’s Wife: Do I go?

Will: If you want.

Volunteer: Here’s the check for you.

Will: I’ve always wanted this much. Where should I put it?

Will’s Wife: Hang it right here.

Will: I’ll forget it.

Will’s Wife: No, I’ll remind you.

Chris Whitney: One of our family members is hurting and we wanted to do something to help him, so we matched BBQ, and music, and a lot of really great people, and we came up with the Pig Jig.

Will’s Wife: This is awesome. Congrats.

Will: The fistula is what it’s called, which is a big vein basically. That’s where they do the dialysis. And so they’ll put a needle on these two spots you see. One of the needles will pull the blood, and it’ll go into the dialysis machine and that goes into my heart and flows through the body.

Will’s Wife: It’s just become a way of life, you know? One time I freaked out seeing the tubes and all the blood running through the tubes, and they were going through the process of actually sticking Will with his needles.

Will: She almost passed out is what she’s trying to tell you.

Will’s Wife: Yeah, I almost passed out.

Will: I love you.

Will’s Wife: I love you.

Will: It’s something that’s become so much a part of my life. It’s like there’s very rarely any day where I’m like, “Damn it, I have to go to dialysis.” It’s almost like if you would just say every day, “Damn it, I have to go to work, or damn it, I have to go take a shower.” You have to get a shot of Moose here. He’s the man.

That’s how dialysis works. It functions as an organ. If I don’t have that organ, I don’t live, so I saw it as a gift, like a big gift. You know, I could have been 26 and dead.

The darkest time for me was when I had my transplant that my mom gave me. The disease is extremely rare and the disease came back immediately. It just crushed me, because it was like this gift my mom had given me.

Friend: Your mom is here. Did you see your mom?

Will: Not yet. I just got here.

Friend: She’s up there.

Will: They pulled a kidney out of her, and they put it in me. I was like, “I’m just going to be living at my parents’ home for the rest of my life, and I’m not going to work. I’m never going to get married. I’m just going to have this terrible life.”

Three doctors come into my room.…This was like one of the most closest to God moments I’ve ever had in my life. They say the worst news I could have ever had: “Your kidney is 50% scarred, and we have to take it out in a week, and you’re on dialysis for a really long time.”

By no act, no work of my own, and I’m smiling inside, because I have this overwhelming peace that came over me. I mean, I cannot explain it. It’s like this irreplaceable sense of peace. It just hit me and my center. It was like peace beyond peace.

I believe in miracles. I believe certain people get healed. I believe in the power of prayer, but my story is not one of healing. My story is of someone that just got sicker and sicker and had to get on dialysis. That’s my experience of God. God will be there in the most awful place.

For me, it was getting a job in spite of my disease; a full-time job. Getting married in spite of my disease. And it becomes this long wide of in-spite-of’s to the point where my disease has been so minimized by all of that. That doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in one year. It might not happen in a couple years, but it will happen. It’s much better than choosing the darkness.

Will: Got it.

Nurse: Yep. No, that tunnel is just like… it’s thicker. I think because it’s been there for awhile. You know what I’m saying?

Will: A lot of scar tissue.

Nurse: Uh-huh [affirmative]. That’s what it is. [Machine whirs loudly and beeps]

Will: Right.

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