By Sydney Spencer
McIntosh High School Athletic Director Leon Hammond has experienced his share of battles when it comes to coaching sports, but he has been fighting his own personal battle off the field for over a decade, and as the school year starts, the AD is looking for a different kind of victory.
Hammond is searching for a kidney donor. He has been diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) since 2009 and is over the ten-year mark for a transplant if it was needed. Specialists informed Hammond in May 2022 that his kidneys were down 20%.
Kidney transplants are needed for end stage renal disease, which is a result of kidney failure. Dialysis would take place when the kidney functions drop below 15% or less. During dialysis, waste and unneeded substances are removed.
“In 2009 I was 25 years old, so there is Superman Syndrome when you feel like you’re going to be okay,” said Hammond. “At the time when I was diagnosed, my kidneys were at like 39% and they may have gotten up to maybe 42% at one point, so there was fluctuation but we knew they would never go back up. We knew the decline was going to happen at some point,” added Hammond.
Routine checkups with his nephrologist and primary care physician help keep track of how his kidneys are declining and so far, they have been slowly declining.
“The first time I heard about it, I tried to put it to the back of my mind and not necessarily think about it,” said Hammond. “When I started making the calls to Piedmont Atlanta and actually having to talk about setting up an evaluation for a kidney transplant, that made it more real. Then having to divulge to my friends and family my health condition, it honestly scared me,” added Hammond.
FSGS is a rare condition and does not seem to be hereditary. Hammond explains how to his knowledge no one in his family has had the condition or anything similar.
“When my mom was born, she had one kidney that wasn’t developed all the way, but that was just a unique situation for her,” said Hammond. “Nobody else in my family that I’m aware of has renal or kidney issues. It’s my understanding that FSGS is kind of rare and more prevalent in African American males,” added Hammond.
Hammond goes on to explain who is a part of his support system and how overwhelming the support has been to him during this time.
“Before I started saying anything, my support system was just my immediate household of my wife, mother-in-law and daughters,” said Hammond. “Since then, I had to get comfortable being uncomfortable asking for help or reaching out to people which made my support system grow. My admin team here at work, teachers, friends who I’ve grown up with sharing my story on social media and strangers who continue to share and wish me well. My support system has gone from just being my household to anybody who hears my story. It’s become huge and overwhelming at times, but it’s great,” added Hammond.
When asked how the public could help, Hammond recommends that people continue to share the story not just for him, but to see if they could possibly be a match for someone else in a similar predicament.
“From a personal standpoint, it would be continue to share my link or my story with other people because you never know the good samaritans or people who want to donate,” said Hammond. “Not even just for me, but for anybody who’s on the kidney transplant list waiting to receive an organ if you’re able to should get tested and see if you could be a donor to help somebody,” added Hammond.
Hammond expresses how he wants to encourage those who are in a similar situation and be there for them as a part of their support system. He also touches on how he has learned the process from the support provided from specialists
“Encouraging people who are going through this too whether they need a kidney or any other organ is a part of my mission,” said Hammond. “They offer you mentors and people who will give you support. People who will help you try to figure out and navigate this process because it’s a challenge,” added Hammond.
Hammond is not used to being in the spotlight or having much attention on him when getting his work done, but his condition has caused him to overcome his pride and step out of his comfort zone. Two quotes that are helping him through the process are “Become comfortable with being uncomfortable” and “It’s better than the alternative.”
He plans to keep a positive mindset throughout the process and leaning on his support system when needed. If you would like to donate the link to donations will be provided below.