PLYMOUTH - Since losing more than 100 pounds, David Ray looks better than ever, but looks can be deceiving. The 33-year-old Terryville resident is seeking a liver donor to save his life.
Ray said his ordeal started about two and a half years ago, when he began feeling tired all the time and his legs were swelling up, and his doctors were trying to figure out the cause.
“I finally ended up at a congestive heart failure doctor, because they thought it was something to do with my heart. They pretty much told me the best thing you can do is try to cut sodium out of your diet and lose weight, because it will help your overall situation,” he recalled.
His weight problems stemmed from 11 years ago, when his father was killed in a motorcycle crash on his way to work at the old Pratt & Whitney plant in Cheshire. Ray worked at the same plant and he was the second person on the accident scene. Then, just two weeks later, his first son was born.
With all the upheaval in his life, he got himself into a state where he weighed 350 pounds.
His symptoms were eventually diagnosed as liver cirrhosis. Even when he was able to lose the weight, he was still seriously ill.
Cirrhosis limits the liver’s ability to filter the blood, causing blood flow to get backed up. The condition has caused the veins in his throat to swell up, which puts him at risk of them bursting. He said he has also developed portal vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot in the main vein that brings blood to the liver.
Taking blood thinners caused him to end up in the emergency room with internal bleeding, Ray said.
“The doctors said you’re only going to get worse from here,” said Ray.
So now he is on a transplant waiting list at Yale New Haven Hospital, but first he has to find a liver donor. Living donors can donate a portion of their liver, which then regenerates.
“Pretty much it’s just spreading the word,” Ray said. “They’ve got to be A or O blood type, because I’m A positive and O is the universal donor. The positive and negative doesn’t matter. The donor has to be to be 18 and over, but under 65, and overall healthy. They can’t be drinking or smoking or anything like that. It’s only a 10 to 15 percent chance of being a match even if a person passes all the screenings.”
His wife, Kristin, has been trying to get the word out, with the help of their two sons, Jamie, age 11, and Noah, age nine and a half.
“I’ve been dragging the kids around passing out fliers, so we’ve been running around a lot,” Kristin said.
They have also been trying to spread the word on social media and by word of mouth.
“It’s push, push, push, and we’ve had people calling in so it’s working. Eleven people have called so far but four or five were ruled out in initial screening,” Ray said.
In the meantime, the family is on an emotional roller coaster. His condition leaves him susceptible to bacterial infection, so a recent trip to Florida landed him in the hospital with a 103-degree fever, he said.
Ray said his health insurance will cover all the donor’s medical expenses, too, but he has a big deductible and then will have to cover 20 percent of the bills beyond that. The family has started a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $40,000 https://www.gofundme.com/Davidssearchforhope.
Friends and family are also organizing an all-you-can-eat ziti benefit dinner for him, on Saturday, Nov. 10, from 4:30 to 6 p.m., at the Terryville Polish Club, 35 Bushnell St., Terryville. Tickets are $20 for adults, including food, drinks and two glasses of wine or beer. Children age 10 and under are free. There will also be raffles and auctions.
Tickets are available at Back to Basics, 31 Main St.; The Lucky Cup, 18 Main St.; Lee Hardware, 171 Main St.; Tire Depot, 1 Missal Ave., Bristol; Precision Cuts, 15 South Main St.; and at the door.
For more information, or to contact the family, visit www.Davidssearchforhope.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or email@example.com.