By Helen Hernandez
Buster Bonjour is a single father. He works full-time at Amarillo College as coordinator of the Student Help Center.
Bonjour goes out of his way to help anyone who comes into the library. People come and ask for him because he is kind and patient.
Every night after a long day at work, Bonjour takes care of his son, Dominic. Then he gets ready to connect himself to a dialysis machine.
Bonjour was diagnosed with a rare condition called Berger’s disease that has developed to in-stage renal failure.
“It’s like I had won the lottery disease, but I got the one that I had to pay for instead of the one you get paid for,” he said.
In-stage renal failure is when the kidneys slowly stop working, and the only treatment is either being on dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Dialysis has been a part of his daily routine for the past year, but that won’t be the case this December, when he gets off dialysis to receive a kidney from his co-worker, Hortencia Quinonez Wrampelmeier.
Wrampelmeier, known as HQ, is a project specialist for the Center for Teaching and Learning.
“We used to be in the same office suite, and his desk would be right across from mine, and so he would have some days when he wasn’t feeling so well,” Wrampelmeier said.
“It was apparent, and he soldiered through. Then there was a day when he couldn’t.”
In July 2011 Bonjour began feeling sick and suffering with severe migraines. When he finally decided to go to the doctor, he was prescribed medicine for the headaches.
“I really thought that I was just getting old,” he said.
“I thought to myself I didn’t know how I was going to make it to 40 or 50.’’
When the headaches continued, his doctor decided to draw blood for further testing, which led to an immediate referral to the hospital, where Bonjour underwent a kidney biopsy and spent two weeks hospitalized.
Bad news followed quickly. Test results showed his kidneys were working at less than 50 percent, which meant he would need to prepare for the possibility of dialysis and go through the process to see if he was a candidate to receive a kidney transplant.
“It’s hard to see your kid seeing you feel sick. You still have to be strong for your kid,’’ said Bonjour, who has much support from his co-workers, who make sure he and his son both are taken care of.
Friends, family and co-workers offered to help in any way they could, such as taking care of Dominic, buying groceries or raking leaves.
‘’It was weird having the thought of not waking up in the morning,’’ Bonjour said.
Over a period of six months, Bonjour endured chemotherapy and steroid treatments because the medical professionals suspected Berger’s disease.
There is no cure, but doctors have had success treating it with chemotherapy.
In Bonjour’s case, the chemotherapy was doing him more harm than good, so he stopped receiving the treatment in November 2011 to prepare for dialysis last December.
After he went to the hospital for dialysis, Bonjour said, “I went in thinking I was going to die. I was ready to go home the next day.’’
Once he was on dialysis, the possibilities of getting a kidney transplant became another strong option. Wrampelmeier was the first to volunteer, followed by 15 other friends and family members.
‘’When you love someone, it’s never easy to see them in poor health, Wrampelmeier said. “As his health started to deteriorate, you feel for him.’’
Testing for a possible candidate was a long procedure, because insurance can cover only one person at a time.
Wrampelmeier and Bonjour went in together for blood testing to see if she was a match. When the results came in positive, Wrampelmeier went through further testing, and the results showed that she is a suitable donor for Bonjour.
‘’I thought it was pretty cool that’s she was a match,’’ said Brandon Minton, a CTL student worker. “I’m glad that it was her and she was so willing to give it up.’’