By night, Chad Corey is a photojournalist for KAAL-TV. By day, he's taken on another role: dialysis patient. It's one he'd very much like to give up. But as we've reported, Chad has end-stage kidney disease and needs a transplant. Several family members and friends have volunteered to donate a kidney, but none have been a match. So until a donor is found, Chad relies on dialysis. That means three days each week, for four hours at a time, he sits in a chair while a machine does the work his body no longer can.
When Seth Bayles learned what Chad was going through, he wanted to donate one of his kidneys to his friend. But Seth's own health challenges — he has an autoimmune disorder so rare it doesn't have a name — prevented that. Still, Seth wanted to do something. He and his mom, Julie, asked Chad what would help him and others going through dialysis. "The only thing I could think of was blankets," Chad tells us, explaining that dialysis often leaves people feeling cold and sleepy.
So Seth — who knows a little something about collecting donations — decided to spearhead a blanket drive. "Our goal was to collect 100 blankets for patients like Chad," Julie tells us. She put the word out on the Seth's Journey Facebook page, and soon, donations started rolling in. And they kept on coming.
Within a month, the Bayles had collected nearly 500 blankets, which they recently delivered to patients throughout Mayo Clinic. Chad was first on Santa Seth's route, followed by others in Mayo's dialysis units. The Bayles then dropped donations at Mayo's Proton Beam Therapy Program and Pediatrics Department, and made a personal delivery to one of Seth's doctors, Phil Fischer, M.D., an altruistic kidney donor himself.
The Bayles' donations were met with smiles, hugs and more than a few tears. And it wasn't the fuzzy fleece that was making people weepy. "This is bigger than blankets," Ashley Anderson, nurse manager of the dialysis unit at Mayo Family Clinic Northeast, tells us. "The blanket is a small gesture. But what's behind it is big. It tells patients people are thinking of them. The love and care behind it is what means so much."
Julie agrees. "This is a means to pull people together," she says. "It is not about one person or story but about how our lives are woven together to encourage and help one another." Julie hopes that help may include a donation that does more than a blanket and the love behind it ever could. "I pray this will inspire others to consider filling out a questionnaire to become a living organ donor, to see if you could be a match for Chad or someone else," she says.
It's the only gift many families, including the Coreys, are wishing for this Christmas.
You can learn more about becoming a living donor here or by watching Dr. Fischer talk about his experience as a donor. Then blanket us with your comments below before using the handy social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.