HANFORD — Lemuel Hutchings was certain he was going to get his life back, but now he has some doubts.
The Hanford native, diagnosed with end-stage renal disease, was told a year ago that he would get a new kidney - from his best friend’s girlfriend, Amber Dunn.
But a year has passed since she agreed to the donation, and Hutchings hasn’t heard yet of when the surgery will be. In hopes to stir up some noise and raise awareness, Hutchings organized a blood drive Saturday at Centennial Park in Hanford.
“I wanted to have a blood drive so people could find out their blood type,” Hutchings said. “I want to also raise awareness for renal disease, but (it seems like) throughout this whole town, no one knows their blood type.”
Hutchings has an uncommon blood type himself: O negative, he said. The more people learn about their blood type, the more people there might be who would be willing to learn about donating an organ.
He also hopes that the event will bring attention to his delays in getting a new kidney, he said.
“The (hospital) has said that it’s 30 days until my surgery, but that’s happened four or five times,” Hutchings said about University of California, San Francisco Medical Center.
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The process of having surgery after finding a match can take six months to a year, according to a previous article from The Sentinel about Hutchings. The year mark is this month, he said.
Dunn would do anything for her boyfriend’s best friend, but the constant delays in finishing evaluation and scheduling a surgery have become very stressful, she said. Doctors are continuously redoing medical tests because too much time has passed.
“They keep saying that when his end is right, and my end is right, that’s when it’s gonna happen,” Dunn said. “But I keep having to go in (for tests) over, over and over again.”
The blood drive attracted over 30 people in just the first hour. Several of Hutchings’ friends, family and neighbors lined up at the Central California Blood Center’s truck to donate blood and find out their blood type, if they didn’t know already.
Donors also received a free lunch and a chance to win raffles. People who knew Hutchings personally wore t-shirts to support him that read “Know your blood type, share your spare.”
For now, Hutchings will continue to go through dialysis three times a week while he waits for the surgery call, he said.
“Every day I get up and I just keep going,” Hutchings said. “But I don’t want to have to wait (for the surgery) so long I’m not physically able to get around anymore.”