PJ Spraggins was ecstatic when he found out that he was a perfect match to save his wife’s life. She had lupus and was in dire need of a kidney; he had one to give.
Which is why it felt like a “kick in the gut” when the doctors told him that he was too heavy to undergo surgery.
And that’s what set the husband from Birmingham, Alabama, on a one-year fitness mission to lose enough weight to save her life.
Then-thirty-nine-year-old Tracy, PJ’s wife, was 6 when she first got her diagnosis. Tracy’s sister, who also had the disease, had recently died due to complications from a kidney transplant; she was just 34 years old. Now, doctors said Tracy would also die if she didn’t get a transplant in time. Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects kidney functions.
So, in late 2013, Tracy had her name put on a seven-year waiting list for a kidney, but her husband knew that that would likely take too long—she very likely might die before then. That’s when he got himself checked out to see if he was a match.
For a spouse to match as a donor is incredibly rare, in fact, but he turned out to be incredibly lucky.
“They said I was a perfect match but they wanted to check I was healthy and met their requirements,” PJ explained, via Daily Mail. “They sent me a blood pressure monitor, but they didn’t like the numbers.”
PJ, who weighed 265 pounds (approx. 120 kg), was told to lose 30 pounds (approx. 14 kg) and return for another evaluation, so he spent the next year dieting and exercising and visiting various hospitals periodically to get reassessed.
After losing 30 pounds, on test day, PJ changed a flat tire, which negatively affected the results.
“My blood pressure was all over the place,” he said. “The results came back and they said no again.”
Then, he visited a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was told to lose an additional 60 pounds (approx. 27 kg).
His test finally came back all clear at Nashville’s Vanderbilt hospital in December 2014—when he made sure everything was perfect before taking the day-long blood-pressure test in a hospital bed. At last, they were good to go.
Over the course of that year, PJ had lost 70 pounds (approx. 32 kg); they had lost a whopping 145 pounds (approx. 66 kg) together. On February 24, 2014, PJ and Tracy took a pre-surgery photo together in their hospital gowns. They were both beaming.
After surgery, Tracy, who is a special-needs teacher, said that her health had totally turned around since the operation.
“The way my kidney function is now, it’s at 100 percent,” she told FOX. “And it’s at the best it’s ever been.”
The couple spent a further two months recovering after surgery, during which they were unable to work—PJ is a self-employed music writer. However, their friends helped out by setting up a fund to help cover basic household expenses—their surgery had already been covered.
“It has just been amazing,” PJ shared via Daily Mail. “To know that I did everything I could to give my wife a better quality of life is just the best feeling. I am so happy.”