Percell Ralegh

by Tonya Dixon | July 11th, 2013
Percell Ralegh

Percell Ralegh (Photo by Mykel Media Company)

Percell “Scooter” Raleigh has endured more adversity in the last 32 years than most people could barely imagine. But through it all his resolve has remained the same. He has learned to be content in whatever state he finds himself.

After Raleigh graduated from Smith High School in Greensboro, North Carolina his plans were simple. He would continue to work the family business—broom making—with his father. No stranger to hard work, Raleigh was more than content getting his hands dirty, living a normal life and keeping busy. Nevertheless, his life would soon be the furthest thing from normal. Approximately two to three months following his high school graduation he started having pain in his ankles and feet. The prognosis was severe arthritis. It wasn’t long thereafter that he found himself walking with a cane.

The idea of a seemingly healthy teenager depending upon a walking cane for stability was abnormal at best. In addition, it was perplexing. Nevertheless, Raleigh did his best to maintain a sense of normalcy and continue working, even if it included the use of a cane. It wasn’t long thereafter that his life would again be shaken. He went through a string of serious life-threatening illnesses. He had a severe seizure, began hemorrhaging in his stomach, had to have emergency surgery, went into a coma for nearly six weeks, and his kidney’s began to fail requiring him to take dialysis treatments. All of which forced him to spend more than three months in the hospital. Ultimately, Raleigh was told that virtually all of his issues were the result of his kidney failure, which in and of itself was a mystery. The doctors could not explain why his kidneys were not operating properly.

Unbeknownst to him, taking dialysis treatments would become as second nature to Raleigh as taking a breath of air, however he never would be given a definitive answer explaining the reason behind his kidney failure. During that time period blacks in the area basically only went to one hospital—L .Richardson Hospital. It was severely lacking in updated equipment to sufficiently care for rare illnesses and simply could not deal with the sheer volume of issues Raleigh experienced. Eventually he became a patient at all the area hospitals, from Duke Medical Center to UNC Chapel Hill to Wake Forest Baptist, seeking answers and treatment. There were no dialysis machines when Raleigh initially began treatments. Everything was conducted manually. The entire treatment was dispersed at one time. Tubes ran from the abdomen to bags and bottles nearby. As time passed and technology and education surrounding kidney disease increased so did the process. Eventually machines replaced the bags and bottles and the tube was placed in a more inconspicuous area on the body. Ultimately he discovered it would just be something he had to accept; and if that was what he had to do, he was certainly able to do it. He says, “I told myself I’m not going to get down on myself. I’m going to live. I’m going to keep doing what I was doing before I got sick.

As the years passed, Raleigh not only learned to live with the burden of taking dialysis treatments but he learned to thrive. Nevertheless, it seemed whenever the trials in his life settled down; tribulation would decide to take a turn. Soon he was called to come to UNC Chapel Hill; they had a kidney available for a transplant. Needless to say he was more than excited. The doctors performed the surgery and were prepared to count it as a success; however, the unexpected and unexplained happened.

After the surgery was completed the doctors were astonished to discover that as soon as the kidneys were implanted, the overwhelming strength of his stomach muscles began to crush the kidneys. They had no alternative but to remove the kidneys. Before the day was over Raleigh was forced to begin dialysis treatments yet again. In addition, he lost an enormous amount of blood and became very sick. His condition was grave, yet miraculously he lived through it all. The disappointment was there but he maintained that if he had anything to do with it, he would not die. Again, he got himself together, got back on his feet and went back to what was familiar—hard work. His schedule included work, dialysis treatments, sleep, more dialysis treatments and more work. Throughout this time he met and married his wife of 27 years, who has stood by his side during the best and worst times. Everyday hasn’t been the greatest but he says it hasn’t been the worst either. No matter what, life included dialysis.

More and more the strain of being on dialysis for such an extended amount of time began to wear on other parts of his body. Raleigh started having severe back pain. The discomfort was so severe that he had to have back surgery. Two toes were amputated; he broke his back while lying in bed and didn’t even know it; he endured major stomach problems; and even cracked every bone in his neck paralyzing him from the waist down for a period of time requiring him to learn to walk again. He required 24 hour assistance. Several times he would be struck with another illness before he completed rehabilitation from the first. It got to the point where he was having some type of surgery every year.

The doctor’s didn’t even understand what was happening. Life was difficult, but his resolve to live and succeed was always stronger. “All I can tell you is this is all god,” he says. “I give him praise every day because if it wasn’t for Him I know where I would be. I certainly wouldn’t be right here. And my wife has been on spot. I don’t know any other woman that would stay and do all she does. My wife has done more than anyone I know; even the hospital. There’s nothing I wouldn’t take for her. Shoot me first before you do anything to her. I’d take a bullet for her.”

Following a brief hiatus in major health issues another problem arose. Raleigh developed sores on his feet that wouldn’t seem to heal. Doctors described a medicated cream, but it made his heels too soft and susceptible to breaks in his skin. Consequently, his heels, feet and legs became infected. The infection was so intense it began to affect his personality and mental stability. There were times he did nothing but sleep and there were times in which he wasn’t even aware and cognizant of his surroundings. It only took one examination for his doctor to know there was no other choice but to amputate both his legs.

The shock was astounding, but he and his wife prayed about it and moved forward with the surgery. It was a success yet dialysis was still a constant and consistent part of his life; but Raleigh says it’s just another part of his life. “I have a whole lot of family support,” he says. “You have to have that family support or somebody backing you. That gives you more courage to do anything. I have plenty of support. Once you get that you can get through anything.”

Through it all Raleigh says it has been the grace of God that has kept him alive. Whenever there was a need he knows it was God that
provided and made a way. “God has been so good to us,” he says. “The doctor would say you’re going to be in a wheel chair, do you have a ramp? The answer was no, but by the time I would get home the ramp would be there. I don’t know how but that’s just how good God has been and I can’t really say anything else but that.”

Despite everything that has happened, Purcel Raleigh is not sitting idly by waiting to die or waiting for another health scare. He is living his life to the fullest. He says it’s not about the issue; rather it’s about how you deal with the issue. “It’s a mind thing,” he says. “Get some support behind you. You can live on dialysis. Kidney disease is bad, but look at me; I’ve been on it for 32 years and praise God I’m still here. I’m still going and I plan on being here another 32 years.”

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