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Palm Coast Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018 1 week ago

Liver transplant comes just in time for Palm Coast veteran

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Thanks to fundraising efforts from Brave-Aid, Joseph Walker was able to receive a new liver.
by: Paige Wilson Community Editor

When Joseph Walker was diagnosed with liver disease (cirrhosis) in 2016, his wife, Patricia Walker, soon began fundraising the $7,000 they needed for after-surgery care before he would even be placed on a transplant list. 

As a nurse herself, Patricia Walker said she felt helpless because she couldn’t heal her husband of 15 years. 

“I was trying to work, take care of him, take care of everything,” she said. “He was getting to the point where he was getting weaker and weaker and weaker.” 

After raising about $1,000 over a year and a half through GoFundMe, Patricia Walker said friends at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Palm Coast recommended that she seek out Charles “Charlie” Hanger, president of Brave-Aid Inc., to help her husband’s fundraising efforts. 

“Charlie literally was the angel that saved my life, along with family and friends and Mayo Clinic.”

- JOSEPH WALKER, Palm Coast veteran

Through the nonprofit, which is dedicated to assisting wounded veterans, Hanger raised about $6,000 in a month for Joseph, which helped pay for housing, utilities and other living expenses to ensure that Patricia could take time off from work to care for Joseph after surgery. 

The Walkers received three phone calls from Mayo Clinic that let them down before the call at about 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 29, that saved Joseph’s life. For a variety of reasons, the available livers mentioned in the first three phone calls wouldn’t end up going to Joseph. 

But Patricia will never forget the fourth call. 

“‘We have a liver for your husband,’” the voice from Mayo Clinic told Patricia. “I said, ‘Is this a joke?’ They said, ‘No, this one should work. It’s a good match for your husband. You guys are the closest. What time can you be here?’ ‘We can be there by 6:15, 6:30.’ They said, ‘Great.’” 

The call came just in time. The day before it, Hanger had raised the bulk of the $6,000 the couple needed at a golf tournament fundraiser. 

“At the end, I was dying,” Joseph Walker said. “I had made my peace. I knew I didn’t have long.” 

The doctor told Joseph he may have only lasted three more days without the transplant, said Hanger. 

“We were that close,” Hanger said. “It gives me chills every time I talk about the timing of it.” 

The Walkers said they owe Joseph’s life to Hanger. 

“Charlie literally was the angel that saved my life, along with family and friends and Mayo Clinic,” Joseph Walker said. 

For Hanger, Brave-Aid is a way he can heal from the wounds he saw in war. 

“My background is in accounting, but when I served in Vietnam, I was a combat medic. I saw many that did not come back,” Hanger said somberly. “When I retired, I was just compelled to do something about the lack of support that some of our veterans get.” 

Joseph Walker was in the U.S. Navy for 29 years, including the reserves. Hanger said he’s honored to be able to have helped another veteran. He and his wife were even at the hospital the day after Joseph’s transplant. 

Since getting his new liver, Joseph said the changes in his appetite and energy have been “like night and day.” 

Patricia had asked her husband what was the first thing he wanted after surgery. He said, “I want a nice, big, roast beef sandwich.’” 

When they came home a few weeks later, Patricia made him just that. 

“Everything’s good,” Joseph Walker said. “I mean everything.” 

Visit https://braveaid.org.

Paige Wilson won three Florida Press Association awards in 2018 and graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 2017. Previously, she worked for publications including the Orlando Sentinel and UCF's Pegasus magazine....

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