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She has her good days. She has her bad days.
Call it mother’s intuition, but Maxine Fleming always knows when her 39-year-old daughter Nicole isn’t feeling well.
“She has good days and bad days and I can tell. It’s really hard to see her go to work and I’ll be like ‘Don’t you want to stay home?’ But she goes on [to work],” Maxine said. “So, when she does stay home I know she’s really ill and it just breaks my heart because I can’t do anything.”
Hopefully, those days of not being able to do anything are numbered for the Flemings. Later this month, Ashland Street Parties and Shiloh Baptist Church will partner for a special event to raise money for Nicole, who is currently awaiting a kidney transplant. The July 27 event is the first of what event organizers hope will be an ongoing fundraiser for members of the community in need.
“I think it will do a lot to build our community and the spirit of cooperation between Hanover and Ashland and various parts of Ashland that aren’t involved with the street parties,” said Hank Lowry, chairman of Ashland Street Parties. “It’s just a good way to bring everyone together.”
Pastor Michael Shannon, of Shiloh Baptist Church where the Flemings are members, said he was aware of Ashland Street Parties and the work they do in the community. Before a partnership could go forward, however, he put the idea before his church.
“Usually you don’t see a church group with a street party group, especially on a Saturday night,” Shannon said. “I had to make sure they were OK with it, so the way I presented it was such that we were looking at meeting the need. We also were looking at a very good wholesome family event that’s been held in Ashland for six years now.”
Shannon said he’s enthused about the number of people that have come to the church offering their support, which includes members of Ashland Town Council and the Hanover Board of Supervisors.
“Being able to see so many people in this community, “The Center of the Universe,” it’s a great thing, because all of us are here for the same cause and the same purpose,” Shannon said. “We’re looking forward to folk coming together and continuing to marry, if you will, our community in a great way.”
Living with Kidney Failure
Nicole’s health problems were discovered at the age of 22, when doctors determined that her kidneys had never grown to full term.
“Basically, they took X-rays of my kidneys and they said they could barely see them,” Nicole said.
About a year after the diagnosis, Nicole said she developed diabetes. When she went in for a checkup, Nicole’s physicians were surprised she was still standing.
“My sugar levels were at 1100 and they told me that I should have been in a coma at that point,” Nicole said.
For a long time, Nicole’s kidneys were stable. In 2009, she had her daughter Natalia and the complications returned.
According to the National Institutes of Health, when kidneys are working properly, they help remove excess fluid, minerals, and wastes from blood. Kidneys also produce the hormones that keep bones strong and blood healthy. When these organs begin to fail, it can cause harmful wastes to accumulate, result in rising blood pressure, and your body may retain excess fluid and not produce an adequate supply of red blood cells.
Fleming undergoes routine Peritoneal Dialysis to manage her kidney failure, a form of treatment she said has helped her live a relatively normal life. When she began dialysis treatments, Nicole’s physician recommended adding her name to a transplant list, a process that usually takes three to five years.
“He knew at that point that eventually I was going to need a transplant, so he told me to go ahead and get the ball rolling and get on the list,” Nicole said.
The family is working with the National Foundation for Transplants and has already raised about $9,000 toward a $250,000 goal.
Nicole has been on the waiting list for 2 ½ years and is now in the top 10 percent of those in need of transplants. Once an organ is secured and the surgery complete, Nicole said it will take about one year to recover fully. She will also have to take a steady stream of medications for the rest of her life.
“That’s what we’re really raising the money for, because the cost of that will be $3,000 to $5,000 a month for the medications,” she said.
Fleming still works fulltime and has not filed for disability benefits, despite her physician’s advice.
“My doctor’s been putting out there ‘Do you want to get on disability?’ and I tell him no, I’m fine, I’m able to move and work and think out of my straight mind,” she said.
Heading into the event, Nicole said its true impact really hasn’t hit her. While she is grateful for the community support, Fleming said she hopes the fundraiser will also help raise awareness of kidney disease and dialysis. She herself had misconceptions about the disease and treatment options when first diagnosed.
“The nurses and doctors made sure that I understood that you can live life being on dialysis and you can live life having a kidney disease,” Nicole said. “You don’t have to be, as they say, ‘disabled.’”
The prospect of the community rallying behind Nicole has given her mother hope going forward.
“That really keeps me going, knowing that other people really care about her,” Maxine said.
Nicole is currently on two separate donor lists, one for organs from live donors and another that accepts organs from the deceased. Maxine is praying that her daughter finds a live donor because of the heartbreak that accompanies losing a loved one.
“I’m hoping she can get a live one so that nobody’s heart will be broken,” Maxine said. “I don’t want anybody to go through that because I often think about, what would I do without my daughter?”
“I know she’s going to get the kidney, I have not given up,” she added. “It’s just a good feeling that everybody’s coming and supporting us, not only Nicole, but supporting all of us. It’s a great feeling and I thank everyone for that.”
Barry Fleming, Nicole’s father, said the family is fortunate.
“I just think it’s a blessing that they picked her, because it could’ve been anybody,” Barry said.
He, like his wife, said the current community efforts give him hope.
“I know it’s not going to be long before she gets her kidney, because I know God is working,” Barry said.
The fundraiser will be held Saturday, July 27 from 6:30–11 p.m. at the plaza behind the Ashland Library. Food and beverages will be available all evening.
The party will feature a gospel group led by local Gospel legend Bubba Johnson and the Julius Pittman Revival, often called “the finest Southern soul band on the East Coast.”
According to Lowry, Faye Prichard, mayor of Ashland, and Chairman W. Canova Peterson IV, Mechanicsville District supervisor, will co-host the event.
“The county and the town haven’t always seen eye to eye on things,” Lowry said. “This is a way for everybody to work together and, generally, I’ve found that when people are working together for something good they tend to get along really well.”
All tickets are $20 and all profits will go to the National Foundation for Transplants to assist Nicole.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.ashlandstreetparties.com or at all First Capital Bank branch offices, all Hometown Realty locations, Minuteman Press (Kings Charter), EVB-Ashland office, Ronald Toombs Insurance Agency, The Caboose Wine & Cheese, Dew Realty, Ashland Ace Hardware and Cross Brothers Grocery.