LANSING, MI –Tolliver ‘Mike’ Bragg is a 22-year old Lansing native. He’s a 2003 graduate of Sexton High school…known by family and friends as an outgoing, affable and respectful young man. Bragg is an up and coming ‘Rap’ music artist and producer who leads a Lansing based group called “The Cho-Boys”. One other thing about Mike…he’s one of more than 89,000 Americans currently waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.
Three months ago Bragg got sick. He went to the hospital and discovered he was in total kidney failure. Doctors still aren’t sure why, but believe that Mike’s kidney’s were destroyed rapidly…probably within 48-hours. Mike, who has no health insurance, is now undergoing kidney dialysis 3-times a week to take over the job of cleansing his blood, thus keeping him alive until he can get a transplant.
“This has changed my lifestyle enormously,” says Mike. “Because of my dialysis treatments I really can’t travel and pursue my music career and I’m extremely tired all the time.” Because Mike, like hundreds of thousands of other Michiganians, works without benefit of health insurance, the medical bills are mounting. According to Emory Medical Center in Atlanta, a leader in kidney transplant surgery, the procedure ranges in cost from $25,000 to $150,000 and the medications associated with transplant surgery cost from $700 to $2000 a month.
Mike, who’s black, has begun a kind of crusade to educate other blacks about the pressing need for black organ donors. “Every American should be educated about organ donation…but especially black Americans,” says Mike.
Medical experts say black donors are preferable for black kidney patients because of the organ’s sensitivity to genetic factors. Unfortunately, the number of black donors isn’t keeping up with the demand. Nationally, blacks make up 27 percent of the waiting list for organ donations, but only 12 percent of donors are black, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Blacks needing a kidney tend to match best with black donors in terms of suitable blood and tissue and therefore, the computers used to find suitable organs for patients, tend to zero in on donated black organs when searching for matches for black patients.
To face a life or death struggle is tough for anyone, but especially so for a talented young person like Mike, who should have a long life in front of him. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 17 Americans die every day waiting for an organ transplant like a heart, liver or kidney. Because of the lack of available donors in this country, 3886 kidney patients died in 2004 (the latest year figures were available) waiting for an organ transplant. Mike has a profound desire to live and is praying he doesn’t join that list.
There will be a series of fund raising events held in the Lansing area to raise funds for Mike’s life saving surgery and to benefit others suffering from kidney disease. The first fundraiser took place on November 24th at the Cadillac Club, 1115 S. Washington Avenue.
Friends and family gathered to support Mike in his quest to raise enough money to pay for his kidney transplant.
Devastation and shock were some of the emotions that Mike’s mother, Mrs. LeAyne Nash, initially felt. She stated that no one in the family had any problems with their kidneys.
Mrs. Nash said, “For four days, there was no diagnosis. We were reaching and grasping for anything that we could hold on to. I had to ask God for wisdom in this situation. He is a young man. He will always be my baby.”
Mrs. Nash has five boys, Mike’s brothers are ages 10, 12, 12 and 15. Mrs. Nash said that her oldest son has to go to dialysis 3 times a week. She attended one session with him and said it was very difficult for her but she said that Mike has not complained about his condition.
With the help of family and friends, the immediate family is coping with the disease that has affected all of their lives. Mrs. Nash was overwhelmed by their support and love.
“The level and intensity of love that I felt around him made me realize that he created this kindred spirit within many people. Mike has been so strong about it. There is a certain depth to him that I have just discovered. I am proud of the way he made the decision to also give back to the community by educating others.”
Ebony Middlebrook has been friends with Mike for years. She said that she wanted to support her friend through the most difficult time of his life.
She added, “I just want him to get better and be healthy.”
Tameka Pate went to high school with Mike and reminisced about how quiet he was in high school. She explained that she was shocked when she found out about Mike’s illness.
She said, “Everything happened so fast. He is so young… this issue has hit close to home.”
India Hudson smiled too as she told her friend, Tameka, that she has known Mike since he was in middle school. India and her friends said that they would not have missed it for the world. They seemed to find solace in each other’s laughter and memories about the good times.
In spite of Mike’s tragic situation, he continues to smile and keep everyone around him in good spirits.
India said, “Mike would have been there for me if I got sick, that’s the kind of person he is. He would have been there for any of us.”
Tameks nodded in agreement and said, “This is very touching.”
An account for donations to help Mike pay for his life saving transplant and the required aftercare has been established at LaSalle Bank. You should make out your checks to the: Support Plan B Kidney Fund. The address is: Support Plan B Kidney Fund, P.O. Box 19243, Lansing, MI 48901.For more information on kidney disease and organ donation you can contact the National Kidney Foundation at 1-800-622-9010 or on the web @ www.kidney.org.