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Everyone hopes the third time’s the charm for William “BJ” Begley. The husband and father of three has been called in to prepare for a transplant twice, but failed to receive a new organ.
Doctors say he is in the end stage of liver disease, but the 40-year-old man’s loved ones are holding out hope.
“He started off in the top 10 transplant recipients on the list in December,” said wife Brandy Begley. “In the past two months, we found out he was within the top five and five weeks ago, he was put on the top three on the list in Chapel Hill.”
Thirteen months ago, B.J. was happily balancing family life with work at Cott Beverages, but a trip to the doctor revealed a high liver enzyme level that left physicians puzzled. Brandy Begley said a visit with a liver specialist revealed a diagnosis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
In July, B.J. was hospitalized in Chapel Hill for three days and doctors said the disease was further along than originally thought and he had cirrhosis, which impaired liver function.
“From there, he had another hospital visit in September,” Brandy Begley said. “After that, doctors determined it progressed a lot quicker than they thought it would and he was in end-stage liver disease.”
The process to get on the liver transplant list was initiated in November and acceptance on the list came as an early Christmas present.
Since being added to the list, his condition has significantly deteriorated and his name has risen. In recent weeks, he’s been called several times as doctors in Chapel Hill have found a suitable organ.
“When we got the call, I had to leave work immediately, get home and head to Chapel Hill,” Brandy Begley said. “We have to be there within a couple hours and it is about the amount of time it takes to drive from Wilson to Chapel Hill.”
Once there, doctors start the myriad of required tests in preparation for the transplant. Doctors call several suitable recipients, though, to ensure the organ does not go to waste in case something comes up with the primary recipient.
“In the past, he was called as a backup, but he would have been the primary if this last liver had been good,” Brandy Begley explained. “It would have gone to him had it not gotten contaminated when the donor’s appendix ruptured.”
The roller coaster of emotions and expectations is daunting not only for the loving couple, but for their daughters ages 4, 8 and 13.
“The 4-year-old doesn’t really understand,” Brandy Begley said. “She knows he is sick and has boo-boos, but we tell her he is going to get better.”
B.J. has been out of work since he was hospitalized in September.
“BJ.. is able to get up and down and do some daily routines, but he is slower,” Brandy Begley said. “He just doesn’t have as much energy. Every weekend we used to do stuff with our kids, but we’re not able to do that as much.”
Disability through his work has run out and he’s waiting for approval of government disability, so his family is struggling to make ends meet.
“Financially it is getting real tough,” Brandy Begley said. “He was making about double what I make an hour, so it has been a real struggle. We had savings, but it is now to the point where we don’t have anything but my income and it is tough to keep the bills paid.”
Less than $2,000 has been raised through an online fundraiser. Some of Brandy’s coworkers decided to take it into their own hands by organizing a fundraiser yard sale from 7 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Wee School Child Development Center at 2305 Madison Drive. The preschool teachers are accepting donations and renting spaces for $20 to enable residents to sell items with more information available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I have always prided myself in being a hard worker and doing what I can to support my family as well as helping someone else out if they have needed it in the past,” B.J. said. “It has been hard to not be able to work and help support my family like I have in the past, but I am thankful for all of the people who have come together for us in our time of need and helped my wife, children and myself.”
Brandy Begley said family and friends also have helped out by pitching in to watch the girls when the duo have to head to Chapel Hill after receiving the call about an available transplant.
“I can’t believe we’ve had so much support from our family, friends and coworkers,” she said. “Even some family members of children at the school who don’t know me have donated because they know I care for their niece or their nephew or their grandchild. That has been amazing.”
The couple tries to stay optimistic and pray that B.J. receives a new liver soon.
“Maybe the third time is the charm,” Brandy Begley said.