Coye Cunningham takes life one day at a time

Thursday, February 14, 2002

Coye Cunningham and his wife, Loretta, moved back "home" to Monette after living in Osceola for 30 years.

Cunnigham retired from American Greetings Inc. in 1990 after working there for 28 years.

Their plans for retirement have not worked out as they had planned and now he said they take one day at a time.

Cunningham has been on kidney dialysis for the last two and half years and on a waiting list for a kidney transplant for the last year and a half.

Their three children, Tina Russell of Monette, Lisa Worsham of Keiser, and Gary Cunningham of Blytheville, tired to donate and underwent the tests. Even though they were matches, due to other complications, they were not accepted.

Cunningham goes to Jonesboro three times a week for almost four hours of dialysis. The treatments are very hard on the body and he said most times he has to come home and just go to bed.

He was diagnosed with diabetes over 30 years ago, and he has had high blood pressure since he was 18 years old. The kidney failure happened all at once.

Cunningham was told that with his diabetes and his age, the dialysis could keep him going approximately five years. He is in need of a kidney donor. Dialysis cost approximately $3,000 a month. Even with insurance it has been quite expensive on the family. Cunningham has had a health struggle for the last decade and in and out of hospitals. He has had eye problems, and had to have a finger removed.

"It is hard to find anyone," Cunningham said. "We had one girl from our church that volunteered but she had had cancer at one time and she could not become a donor. A person has to be in good health and a match."

All of his brothers and sisters are over the age limit for a donor and his younger sister has developed diabetes so she is not a donor candidate.

The Cunninghams attend Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church.

The Cunninghams have had some donations and they opened a special account at the bank.

"We have about $1,000 put back so if I get a donor, I will be able to help them with expenses while they recover from the procedure. A donor will have to be off work for about three weeks after giving a kidney," Cunningham said.

He goes to dialysis on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. He could go on a van but it would cost approximately $45 a week and he said he is fortunate to have family members that take him. His son-in-law takes him on Tuesdays and his brother-in-law takes him on Thursdays and Mrs. Cunningham takes him on Saturdays.

Cunningham tries to stay as active as he can. He enjoys woodwork and planned for his retirement with a wood shop at his home. Throughout their home beautiful cabinets, tables, a fireplace mantle, and a variety of his work is displayed. He loves music and when he is able, he still plays the bass guitar with the group at the Buffalo Island Jamboree.

He calls himself Jack of All Trades. In addition to his career at American Greetings, he loves to carpentry, garden, mechanic work, music and wood work.

"We have made many friends since we have been going to dialysis. It is sad when we see them die. Three or four have died in the last few months. It is happy when we see our new friends get a kidney transplant and get off dialysis. It seems more die than get transplants. There is a big need out there," Cunningham said.

He said many people are not aware that a person can live a normal, healthy life with one kidney.

"If it is God's will, I will get one," Cunningham said.

Cunningham wants to stress to people that if they have diabetes or high blood pressure, take care of it.

"Keep a close watch and do whatever it takes to keep it under control. You can loose your kidneys quick. It is important to take care of your health," he said.

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