He has not finished packing his bag, but Allen Shierling is ready to hurry out of the door if he receives a call he’s been anticipating.
The 46-year-old Columbus man is on a kidney transplant list and is praying his opportunity arrives soon.
“I have been told it could be three to five years, maybe longer, but I am hopeful the call comes before that,” he said.
Shierling’s health problems are no laughing matter, but the Columbus native is hoping a few laughs will provide funding to help cover his massive medical expenses.
Liberty Baptist Church on Valley Forge Road in Columbus is hosting an evening of comedy on April 2 at 7:30 p.m. in honor of Shierling.
Stand-up comedians Clayburn Cox, Ed Wiley, Sam Beman and Timothy Banister will perform family-friendly routines. There will also be a pizza buffet, door prizes and a raffle.
The cost of the event is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. The cost for children 10 and younger is $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Tickets may be reserved at www.akidney4allen.com.
The show is being held in the church’s fellowship hall and additional information may be found at 706-593-8264 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Allen has been through a lot and we have people at the church eager to help him,” said the Rev. David Lix, pastor at the church and Shierling’s brother-in-law.
Lix said a Monopoly tournament, attracting contestants from other states, has already been held at the church in support of Shierling.
“I am grateful for any help,” Shierling said.
Shierling is a Columbus native who graduated from Jordan High School. He earned his college degree at Troy University. He has held positions at both Eddy Middle School and Double Churches Middle School. He worked as a teacher at Baker Middle School. He also worked with autistic children when he was a teacher in Lakeland, Fla.
Allen has suffered from osteoarthritis most of his adult life.
His first kidney problem came in 2007 when he was diagnosed with stage four renal failure. At that time, a doctor discovered he only had one kidney that was functioning at only 25 percent.
“I went to the doctor because I had little energy and my feet and legs kept swelling,” he said.
There were times he could not even get shoes on his feet.
His kidney problems also led to him developing gout.
At the time, Shierling, who weighed more than 300 pounds, decided to live a healthier lifestyle.
“I went vegan,” he said.
That led to a more than 100-pound weight loss.
He also quit smoking.
He began to feel better, but around Christmas in 2014, his condition worsened. And in January 2015, he “crashed.”
Shierling went to a hospital emergency room in distress. His kidney had quit functioning and his body was overloaded with fluid that was putting pressure on organs and making it difficult for him to breathe.
“Doctors told me I needed to be on dialysis or I’d be dead in a few days,” he said. “I always thought I would be much older before I did that.”
Shierling, who walks with a cane, goes for dialysis five hours a day, three days a week.
“Those big needles hurt,” he said.
He can’t teach.
With no insurance, he depends on Medicare.
“A kidney transplant will cost more than $200,000 and I will be responsible for 20 percent of that,” he said.
Lix said the cost of anti-rejection medications needed after the transplant will put a hardship on Shierling.
To help with the financial burden, a fundraising campaign has been established with the nonprofit organization HelpHOPELive. All donations are held by the organization in the Southeast Kidney Transplant Fund and are administered by HelpHopeLive for transplant-related expenses only.
“I never get any money,” he said. “I just send them the bills.”
Shierling is on a transplant list at Emory University Hospital.
“When I get a call from them I get excited, but they are usually just seeking information,” he said. “One day, I will get the call I want.”