Jerry Franks takes his grandson Donovan for motorbike rides when his energy levels allow, sometimes accompanied by his son, Rob. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

Failing kidneys draining energy out of Langley grandfather’s life

Dialysis three times a week for three years has been difficult… but keeps him alive

By Bob Groeneveld/Special to Langley Advance Times

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A new kidney would give Jerry Franks another chance at life.

His daughter, Danielle, has been reaching out on social media “and every way I know how,” and his son, Rob, has a plea for kidney donors to help “My best friend, my Dad” emblazened on his business truck – along with the phone number to call to be a donor: 604-806-9027.

But the odds are stacked against Jerry.

He has been going through dialysis three times a week for the past three years, and by his own reckoning: “It seems like if you don’t get it done in the first four years or so, I think it’s kind of a lost cause.”

That’s not a medical opinion, at all, but just based on the people he has come to know during his treatments. And for now, at least, his place on the regular donors list has been put on hold.

Jerry Franks is 64 years old, “born and raised in Langley my whole life,” born in Langley Memorial Hospital, in fact.

“We moved a couple of times, but we lived on 56th Avenue, just up from 232nd Street,” he said. “There’s an old farmhouse there, we grew up there. From there we went to Langley Central, where Safeway is now. There used to b a school there.”

He was in business from the age of 17.

“I employed quite a few people,” he said. “I had a business running in Langley for years, Jerry Franks Roofing, and I had Action Gutters, but I had to give that up. I got too sick, and I couldn’t work anymore.”

It wasn’t just his kidneys.

“First of all,” he explained, “I had one lung shut down, and then my liver – I caught hepatitis C while in Surrey hospital – then they put ten stints in my heart because my heart started letting go, and then they put four bypasses in my heart, and then my kidneys let go. It’s just been one tragic thing after another.”

Now he’s “all fixed up except I’m waiting for a kidney transplant, and I’ve been waiting for three years.”

The cause of the kidney troubles all has never been pinpointed.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It just went bing bing bing. But I’ve noticed that other people with kidney problems have had heart problems and stuff like that, because one hits the other.”

While he still goes out to help with estimates for his son’s business, Brookswood Gutters, he really can’t do much.

“I just go with him and do a bit of estimating, but as far as working anymore… the biggest thing I miss out of all of this is being able to get up and go to work. I don’t have the energy. I come down to the restaurant in Langley to have coffee with a bunch of the fellas. That’s my whole life, pretty well.”

That, and his grandchildren – he has 10, but Danielle’s boy, Donovan, is special.

“My son doesn’t have a dad in his life,” she said, “so my dad is kind of his male figure and helps him out a lot.”

“He’s quite the little guy,” said Jerry. “I’ve got 10 grandkids, but the one, he’s pretty close to the hip. I have a motorcycle that I’ve had for years, and I go for a little ride around Langley. He’s got his helmet, and he’ll take it to school, for me to pick him up sometimes.”

But even that time is limited. “You want to play with your grandkids, and you don’t even have the energy, and he looks at you and says, ‘What’s the matter?’ And I have to say, ‘Sorry, but I can’t.’ It’s heartbreaking that you can’t do the things that you want to do with them.”

“You have to stay positive,” he said. “It’s kind of depressing, but you’ve got to say to yourself every day, ‘You know it could be worse.’ You’ve got to hang in there. That’s about the story of my life: just hang in there and pray that somebody gives me a kidney.”

He is on B.C.’s kidney donor list… “but for now I’m on hold because when they did the operation on my heart, I lost half of my heart, so I’m on 50 per cent, and now they tell me there might be a blockage in another 25 per cent of my heart. So if that happens, I will not get a kidney. There’s a chance they could cut me.”

That’s why he’s been going out every day “and I’ve been walking and I’ve been trying to push myself, to make it so I can have another shot, so I can have a kidney.”

He noted that anyone can live perfectly well with just one of their two kidneys, but he knows, “It’s a big thing to ask somebody, for a kidney.”

But for now, his philosophy boils down to, “Every day is just live the best you can with what you’ve got.”

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Jerry Franks takes his grandson Donovan for motorbike rides when his energy levels allow, sometimes accompanied by his son, Rob. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

Jerry Franks takes his grandson Donovan for motorbike rides when his energy levels allow, but Danielle Franks says her Dad’s kidneys are failing rapidly. (Danielle Franks/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

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