WAXAHACHIE — A family man, Air-Force veteran and Waxahachie High School graduate, Tony Doshier is a dictionary example of courage, character, and integrity.
Being active and physically fit, the hometown Waxahachie hero seemed to be far from illness — that is, until his life turned upside down.
“It was very shocking when I found out. It was on Halloween when it all started, and I missed out with my two kids and my wife. It changed our lives,” Tony Doshier expressed.
In October 2015, Doshier’s blood pressure rose unusually high — in the range of 270-over-142 — and landed him in the hospital.
“I ended up staying five days in the hospital, and they ran tests to figure out why my blood pressure had skyrocketed. It turns out that I have a kidney disease that’s been killing my kidneys off,” Doshier said. He explained it was then that the doctors identified his diagnosis as what is commonly known as IGA Nephropathy (IGAN), or Berger’s disease,
“My body thinks that my kidneys are bad cells, so it’s basically killing it. When I found out, I was at 15 percent kidney function remaining,” Doshier described.
According to Mayo Clinic, IGAN is a kidney disease that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin lodges in the kidneys. This results in local inflammation that, over time, may hamper the kidneys' ability to filter waste from the blood.
“I’m on dialysis,” Doshier disclosed. “Last time they measured it, I had five percent kidney function left, which will keep me on dialysis until I get a transplant.”
Doshier’s treatment consists of a four-hour session once a day to filter his blood. The transfusion acts as a temporary kidney, flushing out the toxins in his body.
“I probably wouldn’t be here with my wife if I weren't on dialysis right now, so it’s very serious,” Doshier divulged.
However, where one man’s struggle begins, an old friend was there to hold out a helping hand.
“We knew each other from school because of my brother,” began Janelle Zalkovsky, a Veterans of Foreign Wars Officer of the Day. “They were seniors, and I was a freshman, and I recently reconnected with Tony on Facebook.”
Doshier added, “Janelle’s one of my good friend’s little sisters, so she’s taken the initiative to help veterans, and she knows my story, but has taken it under her wing and is really pushing the awareness."
Being a veteran herself, Janelle was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and again in 2006, so she understands the brotherhood bond of the military.
“I was in the Army and went to Iraq. My dad’s from here, too, and committed suicide in September, and that’s what really started driving me to help vets. So anything that I see, especially around Waxahachie, I’m trying to help locals like Tony,” Zalkovsky explained.
A 2001 Waxahachie alumnus, Doshier has received unprecedented support from his high school friends in addition to the efforts of Zalkovsky and his military brethren.
“They’ve been reaching out to me and posting things to help bring awareness to my status. Through Facebook and this experience, they’ve come back into my life,” Doshier explained. “I can’t even put into words how much I appreciate this support.”
“My main goal is helping veterans in anything, whether its’ suicide or something like this. When I saw him (Doshier) on a dialysis machine on Facebook, that’s where it all started,” Zalkovsky recollected.
Inspired to help find a donor for Doshier, Zalkovsky reached out to her boss at the Waxahachie Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3894.
“After she had told me, I said, ‘Sure, I think we can do something and get the word out,’” expressed Ray Hughes, Commander of the VFW. “The whole point is to help veterans, that’s what we’re here for, that’s what our organization is all about.
“Anytime anything like that comes up, I want to be involved, and I want my post to be involved."
The word then spread further as more people reached out to help.
“It’s amazing when people get the word out, and people come to you that you’ve never known to help support you in these ways. It’s phenomenal, and I’ve never experienced anything in my life like the brotherhood and sisterhood that I have with my military family,” Doshier humbly stated. “For instance, I had one guy that I had never met before go through the process of becoming a live donor all because I ended up finding his dog tags in one of my boots."
Finding the stranger on MySpace, then later on Facebook, Doshier scheduled a time to meet and return the missing dog tags.
“I found out my kidneys were going, and I needed a kidney,” Doshier paused. “He actually went through the entire process and got to the very end stage where he was a complete match for me. We were about to schedule a date for the transplant when we found out his flow for his kidneys was uneven and it disqualified him right at the end.
“I never met the guy before and still to this day, I never shook his hand or talked to him in person, but all because of those military ties with the dog tags, he became very close to being a possible donor. It was amazing."
About 15 of Doshier’s immediate family and friends have volunteered to be tested, and all 15 were disqualified for one medical reason or another.
“It is a process, and you have to be in healthy situations in your life. They don’t want to take the healthy kidney from you and cause you to have problems in the long run. They go through a pretty extensive evaluation, and they can only evaluate one at a time. It’s frustrating on my end, but at the same time, I understand,” Doshier explained.
With strong military ties in a historical town, the members at the VFW have taken it upon themselves to spread the word about Tony’s life-threatening timeframe.
“What if one day you need a kidney, or I need a kidney? Then you’re going to hope that somebody’s going to help you out too. I’m just trying to help a fellow vet,” Zalvoksky stated. “There’s got to be somebody around here that’s willing to help.”
“It’s very important. Because without helping each other, whether it’s the VFW, firemen, police officers, community worker, or whoever it is — that’s the whole purpose in life. Without it, we don’t exist,” Hughes added.
Though scrolling and clicking “share” on social media helps to an extent, Zalkovsky encourages the community to take action and get tested.
“There’s got to be somebody out there to at least get tested, and to let people know that you can still live with one kidney,” Zalkovsky noted.
“We’re a smaller, more agile community, and can be doing stuff that others can’t be doing — that’s all the more reason to get involved. We’re trying to help our veterans and take care of our own,” Hughes encouraged.
“The easiest thing anyone can do is check the box on your license to be a donor,” Doshier told the simplest way to help save a life. “Hundreds of thousands of people go through this every single day, and it’s one of the most common issues that puts people on dialysis, and it can be solved. You don’t need two kidneys; you only need one to function as a living person. But when you pass away for whatever reason, you have two kidneys that could save someone’s life. It just takes checking a box to save a life."
Whether one chooses to be an organ donor or a live donor, Zalkovsky urges the community to honor its veterans and those in dire need.
“This is where I’m from, and this is who I’m going to help,” Zalkovsky affirmed with a nod.
While the search continues to find a kidney donor, Doshier is thankful for his hometown’s support.
“It has been awesome, and it makes me so glad to be from such a small town with such caring individuals,” Doshier concluded.
To find out if you’re a kidney donor candidate, call VFW at (972)-937-7007. To connect with Tony, visit his Facebook page at facebook.com/findtonyakidney, or to help fund his hospital bills, go to gofundme.com/wrgzes
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer