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Give for Texans – Hunter’s Story

Hunter Johnson for CBC

Life-threatening diagnosis hit North Texas family “like a brick wall”

“My son, Dakota Hunter Johnson, had a heart attack the morning of March 4, 2023 and that’s how we found out his kidneys had failed.”

For 20-year-old Hunter and his mother, Shanna Toft, this health crisis struck the Fort Worth family without warning.

“He was always athletic and there were no prior symptoms, so this hit us like a brick wall,” Shanna said. “We had no time to prepare medically, mentally or financially.”

The American Kidney Fund notes kidney disease typically shows no warning signs until its later stages. Research also has shown heart failure is a significant risk factor for kidney disease.

Hunter received two blood transfusions when he was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease in March. During his initial weeklong hospital stay, doctors found Hunter had only 2% kidney function.

End-stage renal disease occurs when the gradual loss of kidney function becomes advanced. The kidneys filter waste and excess fluids from the blood; loss of these filtering abilities can cause dangerous levels of fluid and wastes to build up.

“He was literally two or three days from death when he was admitted and had to start hemodialysis immediately,” Shanna said.

Shanna became certified to provide Hunter’s at-home hemodialysis treatments, which he now receives five days a week.

The dialysis sustains Hunter as he awaits a kidney donor match. Most are on the U.S. transplant waiting list for three to five years, according to the American Kidney Fund.

His cardiologist is helping ensure Hunter’s heart is strong enough for a kidney transplant when the time comes. As he expects to need more than one transplant in his lifetime, Hunter is committed to a careful diet and health regimen to prolong the viability of a transplant as long as possible.

“This has been a particularly trying time for us, but he’s got the best attitude,” Shanna said. “We are so grateful to the donors who saved his life, because his first treatment wouldn’t have been possible without blood donors. Thank you so much for giving Hunter the lifesaving blood he needed.”

Shanna emphasized that blood donors make an impact that lasts a lifetime.

“An hour of your time can save the lives of three people,” she said. “Please donate as often as you can.”

Additional resources

Kidney disease facts

End-stage renal disease

Living donor form

The family details Hunter’s journey