STRUTHERS, Ohio (WKBN) – A Struthers native is hoping his story will touch someone’s heart as he continues his journey for a new kidney.
“It’s tough, it’s gonna be tough in the future, obviously,” said Khaled Kassem.
Kassem was eight years old when he first noticed something was wrong.
“I was taking my grandparents to the airport; They were coming to visit and while I was there, I got really sick. I had a really high fever, backaches and so forth, so I got admitted into the hospital for like four days,” he said.
Initially, he was diagnosed with vesicoureteral reflux. A condition in which urine flows backward from the bladder to the kidneys. He was treated for that, but eventually, he would be diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger’s Disease.
“It’s like an autoimmune disease that attacks certain organs in the body, and it happened to attack my kidney,” he said.
Kassem said there is a treatment for it, but because of how progressed his condition is, the treatment won’t help. Now, he’s on a journey to get a kidney transplant. But, the cost of the operation is a hurdle he has to overcome.
“I do work, I do have like a little bit of financial benefits, but it’s not gonna cover the full costs of that surgery,” he said.
Kassem said the medical costs will amount to tens of thousands of dollars. So, in a surprise to him, a family friend began fundraising on his behalf to help him with the expenses. Kassem said he was overwhelmed by the support.
“I’m not one to ask for help, my family, we don’t ask for help, so like when all this started and all this support came in, it was kind of like, you know they just decided to do it on their own. And it was kind of nice to see,” he said.
Despite the financial strain and the weight of his health issues, Kassem is grateful and humble throughout his situation.
“I don’t know what I did in my life for all this support and love, maybe me being a good person, being good to my parents it all came back to me… My mother and father they always sacrificed their time, just to see us happy from when we were young” he said.
Kassem said he’s going to remain positive and hopeful for the future.
“I just know when God’s with you nothing can break you, when Allah’s with you, nothing can break you,” he said.
Anyone interested in being tested to see if you’re a match to be a kidney donor can contact the Cleveland Clinic at 216-445-3150. Anyone who would like to donate can contact Kassem at Kassemkal26@gmail.com.