Army veteran gets life-saving gift on Fourth of July holiday

Army veteran gets life-saving gift

The Walkers have always been active people, a trait that has been passed down from parents down to their children.

"We're finishers, the whole family," said Debbie Walker.

It seemed nothing could tear Ernest Walker away from his work with the homeless and with veterans, until two weeks ago.

"She said the kidney is four hours away, you need to get here," said Ernest.

Ernest had failing kidneys and his dialysis treatments were round the clock. The treatments lasted three days a week, four to five hours a day. The Walkers even named "the machine" that aided in those treatments as "Lucile."

"I'm glad she's out of our home," laughed Debbie.

On July 4, the family got a call that a donor had come through. Richard Dickerman, a surgeon with Methodist Hospital in Dallas, has done nearly 3,000 transplants, but this one he will never forget.

"Because of the holiday and because of the person," said Dr. Dickerman.

Of all the days for an Army man who tirelessly fought for veterans, his kidney transplant would happen on July 4. "He was very apologetic to making me do this on the Fourth of July," the doctor said.

For the Walkers, it is a day of true independence. There was no shortage of support in his hospital room at Methodist Hospital. He was surrounded by family and friends.

"I feel worthy. I feel like a whole man again," Ernest said beaming.

The recovery starts now and at their home. Ernest describes it as "six long weeks of house arrest." His wife Debbie, who works in the medical field, says that timeline is closer to nine weeks. But we can expect that answer from a man eager to start working again on their nonprofit.

"My wife is an extension of me," Ernest Walker said.

Ernest says his wife has been instrumental in making their lives' work happen. Lately, they've switched roles, where normally Ernest would be at the forefront of the work. Now he's working the phones, while Debbie does most of the heavy lifting.

The non-profit work resumes from his dining room table. Right now, he's working to convert an 18-wheeler into a mobile social services vehicle for homeless veterans and the community. It's a project he hopes gives veterans dignity. It would give people a place to shower, sleep, and even pray.

"I have a responsibility. Someone died for me to have this new lease on life," he said.

Debbie hopes her husband's story will encourage more people to be organ donors. The kidney Ernest received was from a 22-year-old drowning victim on that same July 4 day. The Walkers say they have that young man's family in their prayers.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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