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Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. And it really sucks.

In Danny Cook’s case, bad things happened to a good person multiple times.

Three years after losing his dad to lung cancer (ugh), Danny was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure (what).

Newly-married, his wife had encouraged Danny to get a physical. A routine checkup to make sure things were running smoothly. And why wouldn’t they be? Danny was 24 years old. He had no negative symptoms. He felt healthy.

He wasn’t.

Danny underwent tons of tests to figure out why his kidneys had opted to mutiny, but doctors couldn’t find a cause. They did, however, find a suspicious spot on one of Danny’s lungs in the meantime (not okay), which stalled the kidney transplant process by about a year (seriously, stop).

We know what you’re thinking. Hold up. Rewind. It’s been a hot second since high school health class. Why do humans need kidneys, exactly?

Glad you asked! We’re gonna let the experts at the National Kidney Foundation take this one.

The kidneys are powerful chemical factories that perform the following functions:

 - remove waste products from the body [Still Kickin editor’s note: This is the polite way of saying we need our kidneys to eliminate the pee and poo from our bodies.]

- remove drugs from the body

- balance the body's fluids

- release hormones that regulate blood pressure

- produce an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones

- control the production of red blood cells

Needless to say, kidneys are incredibly important organs that most of us probably take for granted. And since Danny’s no longer work, today he relies on a machine to keep him alive as he awaits a new one. He spends three days a week, for more than three hours at a time, at a clinic near his home receiving dialysis treatments. During those treatments, a machine filters all the bad stuff out of Danny’s blood. That’s approximately 95 liters of blood cleaned out by a machine -- all because his two kidneys are sleeping on the job.

“It’s a life-changer once that happens,” Danny says. When on dialysis, “you have to switch up your entire life routine.”

“It’s super sci-fi,” Casie Cook, Danny’s older sister, adds. “The [dialysis] machine is person-sized!”

Ask Danny how he’s responded to crappy news after crappy news the past several years, and he’s basically the shrug emoticon personified. “It’s frustrating. It’s annoying. It’s mind-boggling.”



Casie interjects. “That’s putting it so lightly!” And we have to agree.

Casie nominated Danny for Still Kickin Hero without telling him ahead of time, worried that her quiet, reserved little brother wouldn’t think he deserved the attention.

“The fact that he can take everything that comes at him with such grace and to be able to say, ‘Okay, this is the latest challenge. What am I going to do about it?’ is endlessly incredible to me.”


But Danny humbly argues. “There are other people dealt a worse hand. Where they’re told they’re not even a candidate for a kidney transplant for whatever reason ... I’m in a lucky spot right now.”

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Danny is a pretty modest, good-natured guy. In fact, his sister says she’s only seen him get truly upset over his situation once or twice.

“There will be times I’m bawling on the phone to Danny about this – I don’t understand why this is happening. Fuck the universe! – and Danny is all ‘It’s okay. Calm down. Just breathe.’ I should be saying those things to him!”

Danny is on a list for a new kidney, but the list is five years long. No, that’s not a typo. So his best chance for a transplant is from a live donor. And plenty of people in his life would LOVE to help him out.

Unfortunately, donating is apparently not always as simple as it looks on medical TV dramas. “Hey! I have two kidneys! Want one? AWESOME!” While undergoing donor testing, Casie learned she has an autoimmune disorder that makes her unable to donate. A family friend was told his blood pressure is too high. A former coworker’s protein levels were just barely out of range. So much UGH. Yet another family member is currently losing weight to increase her donation chances.

“The roadblocks are unreal,” Danny says. “You feel like you’ve gone to a dead end. You constantly have to regroup.”

Danny and his doctors are hopeful his story will have a (very well-deserved) happy ending, and this is what keeps him going.

“One day, I’ll have a kidney, and hopefully it’ll be 100% working great, and I can go back to my normal, everyday life that I was living three years ago.”

In Casie’s words: “He’s a hero who needs a hero.”

Have a kidney you’re not using? Want to save a life? You might be a match for Danny. To learn more, visit A Kidney For Danny.

Written by Jordan K. Turgeon