Durham man turns to community to rally support for kidney transplant

Raymond Dukes enjoys quality time with his son Corey and wife Cheryl. Raymond looks forward to spending more time with family once he receives a kidney transplant and his immune system is no longer compromised.

Raymond Dukes is a father, husband and a life-long Durham resident who has contributed to the community consistently through his twenty-three years of work with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Now, he is hoping the community will be able to give back to him. 

In 2007, Raymond was diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerculosis (FSGS), a rare kidney disease that creates scar tissue around the kidneys and prevents them from filtering toxins from the blood. This  led to kidney failure for Raymond. He is in desperate need of a kidney transplant to live.

Currently, Dukes endures dialysis four hours a day, three times a week.

“It’s kind of a drain to the system, you know, the day of and maybe the day after, then you are back to normal,” Dukes said.

Last year, his medical condition forced him to leave his job with the USPS, a role that he greatly enjoyed. 

“I don’t know many people that do, but he actually enjoyed his job. He enjoyed what he did as a mailman and his customers enjoyed him,” said Cheryl Dukes, Raymond’s wife. “So to have that absence, sometimes I worry about his mental health and making sure that he’s okay with the lifestyle changes for the year.” 

Cheryl has been supporting Raymond since the beginning of his medical struggles. Also a native Durham resident, Cheryl met Raymond at Hillside High School and reconnected years later.

Before his condition worsened, the two frequented concerts, good restaurants and enjoyed traveling together. For now, these times have come to a halt.

Not only has his medical condition limited his day-to-day functioning, but so has the threat of COVID-19 over the past several years due to his compromised immune system. 

“That’s my husband, I want the best for him,” Cheryl Dukes said. “I want him to have a thriving and healthy life as best he can and it’s hard to see the change has come to our household and lifestyle.”

When I spoke to Raymond last week, I asked him if he struggled mentally due to all the necessary medical treatments he is enduring. He quickly responded that he did not.

“I guess it just comes normal for me,” he said. “I can’t explain how I do it. It just doesn’t bother me mentally, just physically.”

That mental toughness is necessary as the couple searches for a kidney donor with type O blood. 

Sadly, a donor has been just out of reach for Dukes several times due to various medical disqualifications. 

“I always tell people, if you ever want to know if anything’s wrong with you, try to donate an organ, because they will find anything and everything that could be harmful to both the donor and the recipient,” Cheryl Dukes said.

She had hoped to be able to donate a kidney yet was not medically able to. Cheryl struggled to accept this reality,  wishing to be the one to bring Raymond back into health.

“I am realizing now that it was just not God’s plan, and that his plan was for me to be a caregiver and to be his help to cheer him on as much as I can,” she said.

Cheryl and Raymond believe there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, but they need the help of the Durham community they have so long adored and leaned into.

“A kidney transplant will enable me to return to work, which I dearly miss and spend quality time with my family,” Raymond Dukes said. “A kidney transplant would allow me to live the life I was living before my kidney disease.”

[To anyone who would be open to the possibility of giving a new life to Raymond or even simply speaking to a living donor to hear more about the process, the Dukes ask you to reach out to Amy Woodard, Living Donor Coordinator at UNC Hospitals, 984-974-7568, amy.woodard@UNCHealth.UNC.edu or livingdonors@unchealth.unc.edu. Alternately, you can reach out to Duke University Medical Center at 919-613-7777. ]

Edited by Dezarae Churchill and Micah McLaughlin