Fundraiser held for 911 operator who needs new kidney

Tue, 04/28/2009 - 3:27pm
By: Ben Nelms

And the band played on. Eleven Standing Still played into the night Saturday at Bajas on Jackson Street in Newnan to help raise needed funds for Holly Chambers, a Fayette County 911 operator and Senoia resident badly in need of a kidney transplant.

A facet of the lupus she was diagnosed with 12 years ago, the 33-year-old’s kidneys began shutting down several months ago, now requiring that she receive dialysis three times a week.

Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect the joints and almost every major organ in the body, including the heart, kidneys, skin, lungs, and brain, according to the Alliance for Lupus Research. In autoimmune disorders such as lupus, the immune system, which is designed to protect against infection, mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues and organs.

Holly was diagnosed with lupus more than 12 years ago. She was 21 years old.

“I didn’t know what it was so I did a lot of research and found out. I went into remission several times and recently became extremely ill in November. My kidneys went into complete failure,” she said of the 6 percent kidney function she still possesses. The situation requires that she receive dialysis three times each week. “My family members are in the process of seeing if they are a match for a kidney. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a match.”

Holly began working in Fayette County as a 911 operator a dozen years ago. Her medical condition today has her working part-time.

“They’ve been awesome to me,” Holly said with a smile, noting the cooperation she said the 911 center has afforded her throughout her illness. Today, Holly works several days each month.

Speaking Monday, Fayette County E-911 Communication Director Cheryl Rogers it was the staff at the 911 center that are appreciative for having Holly in their lives.

“Holly has been taking care of the citizens of Fayette County for a long time. She is one of the guardians of this county, someone who needs a guardian now,” Rogers explained. “She is very special to us. She came to work many times when she was sick from the chemotherapy. But she never complained and rarely missed work.”

Holly’s brother, Allen Henderson, is not a match to give a kidney, but is committed to helping any way he can. A nurse working in Fayette County, Allen has more than one level of awareness of his sister’s struggle. He said the fund-raiser was a good way to bring people together for an evening of music and raise money for his sister’s health needs. For their part, Bajas took none of the money received from the $10 cover charge. And the band played for free.

This is the second fund-raiser for Holly. The band playing a Bajas Saturday night, Eleven Standing Still from McDonough, was helping raise money for the donor from which Holly hopes to receive a kidney and the medical costs associated with the procedure, Allen said. The previous fund-raiser was at Maguire’s in Senoia.

“Even with insurance it’s going to be astronomically expensive. And the anti-rejection medicines are not cheap. But when she gets the kidney, that’s the good news. The prognosis is good. The third kidney will be placed inside the abdomen. In theory, since lupus is an autoimmune disease, her body will not attack the foreign kidney. It won’t keep the lupus from progressing, but it will solve the kidney issue and the dialysis she receives three times a week,” Allen said. “The kidney is the main thing now since it is the only body function that has actually shut down.”

So a successful kidney transplant will remediate that issue but it will not address the neurological, cardiac and pulmonary issues also in play. Recently, Holly has begun having severe back and pelvic pain for which she now on is a low-dose steroid, Allen said.

To look and talk with Holly Chambers you would not know that she is living with the pain that has plagued her body for a dozen years. But the physical ailment appears to have had little effect on her spirit. Similar to the way she was described by Cheryl Rogers, Holly’s comments were centered on the kindness of others, not on herself.

“I want people to know how much I appreciate their support. People are so kind. I just appreciate it,” Holly said, also speaking about what motivates her. “This was not my personal choice about how I wanted to live my life. But I have a 10-year-old son that needs me to be as happy as I possibly can. I live everyday for him.”

Holly and Allen grew up in Fayette County. Holly, her husband Clay and their son Caden now live in Senoia. Their mother Shanda lives in Peachtree City.

“People do care,” Shanda said, commenting on the number of people from across the country that have sent donations to her daughter. Shanda also spoke of Holly’s upbeat spirit that overshadows the medical complexities that persist in her life. “Holly’s optimism came from her grandmother. My mother gave it to me and I passed it to Holly. She’s my daughter. I love her.”

Also at the Bajas fund-raiser was Holly’s dad, Roy, who had come up from Homestead (Florida) Air Reserve Base where he works as an air traffic controller. He, too, admires his daughter’s outlook and perseverance.

“She’s just remarkable in the way she handles it. Not many people could be as strong as she is, going through what she has to go through,” he said.

Allen thanked all those who have contributed to past the current fund-raising efforts. The devotion to his sister’s cause and having her receive the care she needs translates into more fundraisers in the future.

“It means the world to us,” he said emotionally. “We’re going to continue to do these fund-raisers. We’re hoping to do a family-oriented fund-raiser in Fayetteville next month, with food and Eleven Standing Still playing. This band is a very unselfish, wonderful group of guys.”

Anyone interested in assisting with fund-raising efforts for Holly can contact Allen Henderson at 770-912-1077.

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