Worjroh Donaldson enrolled in Midlands Fatherhood Coalition last October hoping to
strengthen his relationship with his 18-year-old daughter. What he did not expect was to
find support in the midst of kidney disease.
Donaldson was attending a weekly peer group session when Dawn Pender, nurse
practitioner and Director of Health Access for the South Carolina Center for Fathers and
Families, came in to conduct a routine health screening.
When she asked to check his blood pressure, he brushed her off. He knew she would
not like the results, as he was already on dialysis treatment for kidney failure.
Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 21 and considering the benefits of a pancreas-
kidney transplant, he knew his health would spark a conversation.
Ultimately, Pender convinced him to let her examine him.
“I’m one of those people who sort of keeps things to myself. In my mind, I was thinking
all types of negative things,” Donaldson said. “She was real informative. She was
Once Pender learned more about Donaldson’s condition, she quickly lept to his aid
and offered to help in any way that she could.
“She basically coached me along. She gave me her card and said if I need anything,
she’s always available,” Donaldson said.
Living with end-stage kidney failure is difficult. Donaldson has to travel often to receive
medical care in Atlanta, Durham and Wake Forest. He also works full-time at the Fort Jackson Commissary and tries to attend weekly peer group sessions at Midlands
“The simple thing is getting out of bed. I don’t want to get up,” Donaldson said. “I
realized, without your kidney function, you just feel tired. To get that motivation to get up
and go, trying to make my appointments, I feel like I get pulled in so many directions.”
In spite of all the stress and uncertainty, Donaldson does what he can to keep a positive
“I pray,” he said. “I can’t worry about it.”
If there is a bright side to his diagnosis, he now has the opportunity to connect with his
daughter, who is also diabetic. Donaldson wants his daughter to learn from him and make smarter, healthier choices
than he did in his youth.
“First thing’s first, take care of yourself,” he said. “The most important thing is, take care
of your health when you’re young. What you do when you’re young, if you get the
privilege to live a long life, it’s all going to come back to you, good or bad.”
Donaldson has come a long way, learning to open up about his experiences and
sharing his story.
While he used to be consumed with negative thoughts and doubts, he’s found hope.
Hope that he can receive the transplant he needs, hope that he can continue to fight his
illness and be a good father to his daughter.
“Most of the men on my father’s side, they died in their 50's,” he said. “So, I still feel like
there’s more for me to do, more good I have to do in life. I just want to find something
that I really enjoy, that I can help more people. I don’t just want to say I was here and I
died. I want to make some type of difference in the community.”