SEDGEWICKVILLE — The kindness of strangers makes for a happier holiday for a southeast Missouri family.
Wess Holston was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at 16. Now 30, he is awaiting a pancreas transplant.
His disease has made it impossible for him to work, and medical bills have piled up. So Holston, his wife Katrina and their six children, ages 3 to 12, were facing a grim Christmas.
But recently, the family received a phone call. Katrina began to cry tears of joy: A Denver-area family donated money to help provide gifts for the family.
"She started crying about it, and then she told me," Holston told the Southeast Missourian newspaper. "It was a tremendous relief.
"With me being unable to work, Christmas wasn't going to be like it used to be," Holston said.
The donor family said its relative had been through a transplant that made it difficult for the holidays. It asked to remain anonymous after contacting the National Foundation of Transplants, saying it wanted to help a transplant patient in need. The amount of the donation was not released.
"They asked if we could recommend someone who had small children and would be unlikely to have a Christmas this year," foundation spokeswoman Mandy Scherer said.
Now, Christmas morning will likely be a happier time for the children.
"We haven't told the kids yet, because we want it to be a surprise," Holston said.
Holston's medical ordeal began 14 years ago when he lost 27 pounds in about two weeks. "I was real weak and could hardly lift up anything," he said. "And I was constantly going to the bathroom."
Now, neuropathy is causing leg pain. His stomach aches. He had to give up work as a painter and drywall installer.
Making matters worse, Holston has no health insurance.
He turned in August to the foundation, which helps raise funds for transplant patients. Holston's pancreas can't make insulin, which unlocks cells so they can use sugar. Unregulated sugar damages nerve endings and can cause seizures, a coma and even death.
Doctors say the transplant is essential to Holston's survival. The initial cost of the surgery is about $300,000, but a transplant is a lifelong financial obligation because of follow-up evaluations and anti-rejection medication.
Those wishing to make donations to Holston can go to www.transplants.org and search for his name.