Local man, fund-raising group seek donations for kidney surgery

Elisabeth and Chad Johnson, of Huntington, are planning a hog roast fund-raiser to help defray expenses following a kidney transplant for Chad.
Elisabeth and Chad Johnson, of Huntington, are planning a hog roast fund-raiser to help defray expenses following a kidney transplant for Chad. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published May 12, 2014.

Several pictures grace the living room walls of Chad and Elisabeth Johnson's home on Huntington's east side. They are mostly of painted Japanese characters that spell "Wish," "Patience," "Faith," "Honest," "Love," "Dream" and "Family."

There is another picture that says, "Tomorrow Begins Today." It is that saying, plus the hope that comes from the others, that Chad Johnson is clinging to in the fight of his life.

Johnson, 40, a disabled construction worker who suffers from diabetes, learned about eight weeks ago that his kidneys are failing, due largely from initially ignoring his disease.

"Right now I'm down to 6 percent kidney function for both kidneys," he explains. "Diabetes just wears away your body - bit by bit, piece by piece. That's why when you're diagnosed in the beginning you have to get very serious. I didn't - I was in denial."

Johnson is the only member of his family to contract diabetes; he says so far, his three children have not been diagnosed with the disease. He was placed on the Lutheran Hospital transplant waiting list April 24. He is currently preparing to undergo dialysis, three times a week lasting four hours per visit.

Johnson has Medicare and Medicaid, but it does not cover all of his transplant-related expenses.

Lutheran Hospital put the Johnsons in touch with HelpHOPELive, a non-profit organization that assists patients with their grassroots fund-raising efforts so he can get the kidney transplant and medications he needs.

A hog roast fund-raiser is planned for Saturday, May 31, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Heritage Hall, in Hier's Park, Huntington.

The meal includes potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans, macaroni salad and Texas sheet cake for dessert.
Orscheln has donated bottled water. Raffles will be held of various donated items and DJ Jack Haneline will donate his services to add entertainment to the festivities. The Johnsons are seeking more food donations, items to raffle off and area businesses to sponsor the event.

The money raised will go to HelpHOPELive to benefit the Great Lakes Kidney Transplant Fund in Chad's honor. Donors can take advantage of the organization's 501(c)(3) status, which allows tax-deductible donations.

"Once you set up the fund-raiser and you collect the money, they disperse the money where it needs to go," Johnson says.

"It's dispersed for bills, and bills only," adds Elisabeth Johnson.

Joni Henderson of HelpHOPELive says Johnson needs to raise $6,000 just for the first year of expenses following his transplant surgery.

"The patients are given that new organ, but if they can't afford to pay for their immunosuppressant medication they will not have that new organ for very long," she explains. "So the transplant centers want to make sure that even with insurance, the patient will be able to pay for their co-pays and deductibles. ... And by fund-raising in advance he will have enough money to pay for that first year's medication cost."

Henderson adds that the money funneled through the organization is not considered a monetary asset to the patient and will not jeopardize any government assistance they may receive.

Chad says HelpHOPELive receives 4 cents for every dollar raised for expenses.

In addition to the artwork he already has, Johnson could add another picture to his living room wall: "Vision."
There is only one future goal he has in mind once he receives a new kidney.

"I want to be back to work," he says. "It's awful to sit around the house all day."

To purchase tickets online for the hog roast fund-raiser go to http://bit.ly/hogroastchad or call Johnson directly at 359-2878.

Complete caption: Elisabeth and Chad Johnson, of Huntington, are planning a hog roast fund-raiser to help defray expenses following a kidney transplant for Chad. Johnson is working with a non-profit organization, HelpHOPELive, which assists patients with fund-raising efforts.