Gary and Chuck

Lakewood Family YMCA

Gary and Chuck share more than just a friendship—they are both on kidney dialysis. When Gary first met Chuck, his health was on a downward spiral. Over the course of three years, he struggled with ulcers, contracted sepsis, and was in a coma for 25 days. All of that was before he received the diagnosis that changed his life.

“My kidneys don’t filter anything out,” Gary said. “My doctor said it’s like running a car engine for 100,000 miles without changing the oil.”

Gary was worried about how weekly dialysis would affect his life. His wife, Barb, was working in the Common Ground Café at the Lakewood Family YMCA and introduced him to another member, Chuck, who was also on dialysis for kidney failure. Chuck, who served in Vietnam in the late ‘60s, had already undergone multiple rounds of treatment.

“Chuck and I started talking about dialysis and what to expect," said Gary. "Then, once I started, we would compare how we felt afterward.”

Both men were drained after their four-hour sessions, developed painful leg cramps, and found it difficult to get up from chairs and walk around. They also knew that they needed to lose weight in order to be eligible for kidney transplants and other surgeries, so they committed to meeting three days a week at the Y to walk around the track and have a cup of coffee.

“Having somebody to walk with you and talk with you keeps you motivated,” Chuck said.
“And takes your mind off the pain,” Gary added.

Together, they loosen up on the stationary bikes and then alternate walking laps around the track and resting. When Chuck started walking on his own, he could only manage two laps, but they’re now up to 12 laps a day. Gary often gets so caught up in their conversation that he loses track of how many laps they’ve completed. Luckily, Chuck always keeps count.

“When you try to do something yourself, especially when it’s difficult, you can come up with a hundred excuses why you can’t do it,” Gary said. “But if you have someone depending on you to be there, you can do it. We’re excited for how we’re going to feel a year from now.”