KILLEEN - She laughs and cracks jokes. She goes to the gym four days a week. She works at the VA Hospital in Temple serving veterans like herself. You would never know she is fighting a constant and painful battle inside her body.
"It's kind of like waking up dead. I know I'm awake, but I just feel so God awful and miserable, but I'm really lucky because I'm not vomiting or passing out," said April Slifer-Pagan optimistically.
Six years ago April was having a medical operation when doctors discovered she had chronic kidney disease.Now at stage four, she has been fighting through the symptoms to stay off dialysis, but that could change at any moment. She will need a kidney transplant for a normal, healthy life.
"Right now I'm just kind of hanging by the skin of my teeth. I'm not feeling entirely well," she said.
It is a difficult pill for April to swallow. She has dedicated her life to serving others and fixing people's problems. She served her country with 16 years in the Army, and now for the last 16 years she has been serving veterans at the Temple VA. But now, after more than 30 years of serving others, she is the one who needs help.
"I'm just not the person who says 'I need', I'm the one who solves the problems," she said wiping back tears. "I've just powered through it, and this is actually not one we can do by ourselves."
Right there by her side, her husband Carlos who is also a veteran, was not a kidney match. In stepped her best friend, Air Force veteran Karen Davis. "My first response was, I have a kidney, why not take mine," said Karen.
Unfortunately, Karen was not a match. But just as veterans tend to do, they are sticking together and not giving up. "I have something that I do not need that can save a life. I would I not want to give her a future and a life?" said Karen.
Through paired kidney donation, they are hoping to find another couple just like them - a living donor and a loved one who is in need of a kidney. When they find a match, Karen will donate her kidney and in return April will receive a kidney from another donor. It increases the chances of finding April a kidney, while it saves two lives.
"I don't see it as going to someone else," Karen said. "I see my donation going to April."
As they search for her life saving kidney, April and her support system are trying raise money to help pay for the operation and the post-transplant medications she will need the rest of her life. "Just the sheer cost of the post transplant medications are staggering," said April. "Between Medicare and my insurance, there is still a huge amount money I will have to come up with every single month."
Tapping into her love of Disney movies, she created 'April's Royal Transplant Team'. Through her Facebook Page, people can keep up with her story as she hopes for a fairy tale ending. To help make her transplant possible, donations can be made to receive support bracelets. She also sells cooks books, and does a fundraiser called "flocking" where they place plastic pink flamingos in yards to help raise money and awareness on organ donation. "It's just a fun way getting the word out there," she laughed.
She is also holding a bake sale and raffle this Saturday, September 24th, at the Oscar store in Temple from 11a.m. to 4p.m. Prizes for the raffle include a Yeti Cooler and a grill.
Through this process, even if she does not find her match, April hopes that her story will inspire others to consider kidney donation. "You could save someone's life. What greater good is there?" she said.
If you have questions about being a living donor you can email: firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call 254-760-5099. If you would like to learn more about April and her fundraisers (click here).