Michael Massey, the Brookings man in need of a life-saving kidney transplant, has met his goal of raising $30,000 — after Gillian Anderson, who plays FBI special agent Dana Scully in the television series X-Files, donated the remaining balance of $16,000 for the surgery and after-care.
Anderson had wanted to remain anonymous, but her name has remained on Massey’s gofundme website since Friday when she made the contribution. Attempts to locate her talent agent were unsuccessful.
If Massey can find a compatible kidney donor, the surgery could save his life.
The Brookings-Harbor High School graduate was born with a blockage in his urethra that resulted in surgery to remove his right kidney, and left his remaining kidney with 30 percent capacity — all at the age of 2.
He was relatively healthy throughout his childhood, and after graduation, worked in construction in Klamath Falls before he was struck with gout. His kidney had finally failed, forcing him to quit his job, move back home and get on disability.
He spent the next several years on dialysis.
The 27-year-old man had raised $16,534 through a gofundme site for the surgery, pre- and post-surgery care, medication and housing near Oregon Health and Sciences University hospital where the surgery is planned to take place.
But even at $100 a donation, it stood to be a slow process.
The matching money
The story is complicated.
Bonnie Carper, also of Brookings, knows Massey through her son, Patrick; the men have been best friends since they were teens.
Carper also has a niece named Mia, whose best friend from college is Anderson’s sister; she wished to remain anonymous, Carper said.
Carper, a big fan of the talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, wrote to her to ask for help.
“And Mia was telling (Anderson’s sister) about Mikey and that I’d written to Ellen, and I asked if Mia could send it to her friend to pass on to Gillian.”
Whether the request ever got to DeGeneres is unknown, but it did make it to Anderson. The “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” — a theory that everyone is connected by six people: your friend has a friend who has a friend who has a friend who has a friend who has a friend who’s your friend, crossed Carper’s mind many times over the weekend.
“Mia really wanted to help,” Carper said. “She put fliers up around Manhattan about Mikey, saying, ‘You never know. You never know. Nothing will probably come of it, but you never know.’”
Seven hours later, at 3 a.m., Carper received a text.
“Oh my god; look at Mike’s gofundme,” Mia texted.
“And there’s that $16,000,” Carper said.
“Wow, oh wow”
One can sense the family’s excitement in their social media posts and texts.
“The community and people across the country have gone out of their way to help me — a stranger in most of their cases — and it’s really just incredible and still shocks and amazes me that people can care so much and can be so selfless, thoughtful and giving,” Massey wrote in a social media post thanking all the donors. “I feel overwhelmed with love and joy. There are really no words to express how grateful and thankful I am for everybody’s help, support and donations.”
Carper said the limelight shouldn’t all be on the celebrity.
“Do not concentrate on (her),” Carper said. “Half of this money came from all these other people. The first $14,000 was just people who cared.”
She cited a recent incident when she was eating at a local cafe and relating Massey’s tale to her server.
“She grabbed her purse and dug out $15,” Carper said. “What a heart. There are thousands of people in Mikey’s position, where they have to ask strangers to help them live. We’re talking about asking for help, putting yourself out there and asking, ‘Please help me live. If I don’t get help, I’m going to die.’ It’s humbling to be in that position.
“It’s opened my eyes. Now I know it. I get it. I’m never going to turn away. I can always give $20. Every $20, or $10 or $5; it’s not the money. Every time I see a donation, that’s saying, ‘I care about you.’”
“That’s what was amazing for me — the community pulling together for one of their own,” Massey said. “I really did not expect any of this to go this far, this well; it’s really amazing.
“I want everyone to know what a difference everyone has made in my life and how much it truly means to me,” he added. “There really are no words to explain how grateful I am and how much I truly appreciate every single person who’s helped me through this, but I want everyone to know that you all made it happen for me.”
Massey and his family were far too elated last weekend to even think about the next steps.
“I will be calling OHSU once the week starts and see what the next step is and where I’m at with the transplant, and I will keep everybody updated,” Massey said.
He knows it will be about as arduous as the fundraising.
His mother, Laurie, will undergo training to become Massey’s support person, with him every step of the way to ensure he does everything the doctors say — particularly when it comes to taking medications such as his anti-rejection drugs.
“It has to be someone in my family or my daily life who will be there after,” Massey said last week. “The only person I have is my mom; I didn’t know what we were going to do.”
But his mother could also be a viable transplant match — in which case she can’t be the support person.
Regardless, a compatible donor must be found. His sister is likely his best match, but they couldn’t even test her until the $30,000 was raised. If she’s not optimal, he’ll have to search elsewhere.
One option is what Massey calls “kidney recycling,” in which a would-be donor who doesn’t match the patient donates their kidney instead to someone who is a better match. Someone else in the program then donates one of their kidneys to the first patient.
Massey and his mother — and his sister and her daughter — will also need to find a place to live for the three months or so he’ll be in Portland.
They face six weeks of training before the surgery, three weeks while Massey’s in the hospital and another six weeks of recovery.
There are still unknowns, including finding the best donor and the risk of Massey’s body rejecting his new kidney.
During the years he was healthy, he didn’t think much about his pending transplant.
“Now that I’ve been on dialysis for a few years, I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “To be free again. Free of a machine, being able to travel, spend a week with a friend and not having to come back for something; it’s awesome that it’s even possible. It wasn’t possible not too long ago; people didn’t get a second chance.”
And now, thanks to a movie star he doesn’t know and the hundreds of small donations from the town he calls home, a young man has an entire lifetime ahead of him.
Reach Jane Stebbins at firstname.lastname@example.org .