Craig Harris/Macon County Times Lafayette’s Markus Greer is on a list of individuals who are waiting for a kidney transplant.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Lafayette’s Markus Greer is on a list of individuals who are waiting for a kidney transplant.

Markus Greer's past is filled with athletic endeavors.

The 1998 Glasgow (Kentucky) High School graduate played both football and basketball.

Later on, Greer -- who played both tight end and defensive end for the Scotties -- played semi-professional football for the Bowling Green-based Southern Kentucky Knights.

The game has now changed for Greer though.

His physical activity has been relegated to simple tasks.

"I do house chores," Greer said. "I do the little bit I can around the house. I do laundry, dishes, try to cook a little bit and try to pick up the kids off of the bus ... and then, I'm trying to take it easy really.

"If I do too much, it's liable to put me down. I try to do as much as I can."

The 39-year-old Greer goes through nightly dialysis in an effort to combat end-stage renal failure.

"Back in 2012, we found out I had diabetes," Greer said. "It's already done a number on my kidneys. My A1C was up real high. My potassium is extremely high from the diabetes. It's done its damage too.

"We were getting life insurance. It was through State Farm. The test I had to take ... they were like, 'You need to go see a doctor.' When we did that, it's really when it really hit the fan. We went to see Dr. Jack Carey down in Hartsville. He said, 'We're going to send you to a nephrologist.' "

Nephrologists specialize in renal disease.

The kidney failure likely stemmed from diabetes.

"That's probably what it was," Greer said. "I inherited diabetes from my mom. It was going untreated for a long period of time. It's done its damage."

Greer decided that he had to take action in 2012.

"It's been out of control for a while," Greer said. "We decided to do something about it around 2012. I was just trying to manage it as best as I could.

"We were trying to keep it stable. The kidney functions were going down. It didn't feel like it was going down, but by the numbers, they said I needed to go in. My kidneys got down to 14 or 17 percent, and then he sent me in. I started hemo-dialysis on Sept. 19, 2018. I had surgery. They were ready for me at Sumner Regional (Medical Center in Gallatin). They put a hemo-cathater in my chest, and I was in dialysis that night."

Greer was initially placed on hemo-dialysis.

"The hemo-dialysis, they take the blood out, clean it and put the blood back in," Greer said. "It's frustrating ... because when I was on the manual bags, the four bags per day for four hours, you couldn't do anything. As soon as you get to doing something, you have stop, get all the supplies. You have to sit down and let gravity do its thing."

Then, Greer transitioned to peritoneal dialysis approximately four months ago, making the daily process considerably easier.

"The machine is a whole lot easier than doing it manually," Greer said. "We had to do it four times a day, every four hours. You couldn't really do anything. Now, it gives me a little leniency.

"Now, with the machine, I can take it anywhere, but it's still there. I'm sleeping in the living room. It's humming. It can wake up everybody in the house. I try not to let it get the best of me, but you have to get the treatment in. You can't skip anything. You can't do without."

Greer does the dialysis while he sleeps, from approximately 8:30 each evening until 6:30 the next morning.

"It's been very difficult," Greer said. "First of all, it was just getting back and forth to the appointments. When I was on hemo-dialysis, it was Monday/Wednesday/Friday. They would take off too much fluid. The peritoneal, it's a whole lot better. You don't feel as bad. You don't feel wiped out.

"In the peritoneal, it's like a sugar water. They pump it in my peritoneum. It goes in my body and pulls out toxins."

The process has been a difficult one for his wife, Jennifer, as well.

"It got better ... then, the bottom kind of fell out of it," Jennifer Greer said. "It was April. He started having to have transfusions. He had to have blood transfusions, because people with chronic kidney issues tend to be anemic. That's why they're so tired.

"I knew where we were headed. As a nurse, I knew that if it didn't get better where we were headed."

Markus Greer added, "It's been very tough (on his family). It's really tough on my wife. She's going through it along with me. It's been stressful on her, very stressful."

She's seen dramatic changes since they were married in 2013.

"He had significant weight loss," Jennifer Greer said. "He was tired all the time. His endurance became poor. He's a mechanic. He could work forever and ever. He rode motorcycles. He can't do that anymore. There's no vacations. Dialysis becomes the more important part of your life. You have to do it to live."

Markus Greer added, "If I give myself time and breaks, I can do it, but it'll take longer than what it should. It's anything super physical. If I have to go in and clean something, it's not really out of breath, but you can feel the body pulling."

In addition to the fatigue, Markus Greer also experiences some pain and blood pressure issues as well.

"If you move a lot, I get a strong pain in my low back where my kidneys are," Markus Greer said. "Then, I have to rest. The things I used to do, I can't do anymore, like work on my cars.

"The medication I'm on, sometimes, when I stand up, my blood pressure drops down to 90/65, which is super low. Then, when I'm sitting down, it can get high. It's crazy."

Markus Greer hasn't been working since Sept. 19.

"While I was working, I've been working at Auto Zone (in Gallatin most recently in addition to the Lebanon and Bowling Green locations previously) for about seven years now," Markus Greer said. "It's kept me in and out of the hospital. Things fluctuate back and forth.

"I want to go back to work, but my wife is like, 'You can't go back to work and risk getting sick.' "

However, the most recent development has been that Markus was added to the waiting list of individuals who can receive a kidney transplant.

"There's a lot of tests you have to take," Markus Greer said. "They see if you have any disease. They do a stress test. I had to do a couple of X-rays. It's a long process. I had to be approved. You have to be a certain weight limit. It's a lot of stuff."

Jennifer Greer added, "It's a regional list that he's on. This list covers the Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville area. He could go to Memphis and be on their list. We could also go to Louisville or Lexington and be on their list. You can be on multiple lists, but you have to go through testing at each place. If you get that call in the middle of the night, you have to go. You can get to Nashville pretty quickly ... but we would go wherever. His health otherwise besides his kidneys, his health and his blood type ... those things play a factor in where he is on the list. He has a much longer life expectancy."

For now, Markus Greer may choose to stay on the area lists that he is on.

"We're going to try to hang out on this list for a while," Jennifer Greer said. "Vanderbilt does over 200 kidney transplants a year. That's almost one a day if you exclude the weekends. I just feel confident that we're where we need to be right now."

Greer sees his nephrologists, Dr. Jay Joseph and Dr. Anumeet Pryadarshi with Gallatin's U.S. Renal Care, twice a month.

"The focus at this point for Markus is keeping him healthy," Jennifer Greer said. "We don't do a lot of outside activity. It's flu and cold season. He doesn't need to be out that much in it. If he's sick and they call with a kidney, he can't take the kidney. So, we have to be focused at this point."

Having been approved to go on the list has been an encouragement for the couple.

"We're way further in the ballgame than I thought we'd be," Jennifer Greer said. "I never anticipated it to happen this quickly. It's encouraging. It seems like a lot of things have fallen into place. Maybe that's me having false hope, but I'm trying to be optimistic about it."

Markus Greer added, "I was thrilled yes ... I guess I'm going to live a little longer. It's actually been really fast. You can have a living donor come in, and if they match, they run the test. If they pass the test, you can go right then and there, but I'm pretty sure you're going to be on there (the list) for a while. I'm a very patient person. That's the only thing I can do is wait. I can't rush them. If they don't have something I'm looking for, I just have to sit back and wait."

Jennifer Greer says that optimism has been a key part in coping with her husband's condition.

"It's physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting," Jennifer Greer said. "Sometimes, the way you deal with things is determined by your attitude. That doesn't mean that every day is a good day. It just means that we're dealing with it. We don't have a choice. You do things because you don't have a choice.

"He is only as good as his support is. I've had to just handle it. I've had help. My brother (Jonathan McGuffey) helps with my child, and I have a great bunch of friends. We just handle it. We try to go into it with a good attitude. God has brought us this far. He'll help us the rest of the way. We just have to have a good attitude. It can't be, 'Oh, woes me.' You won't make it. That doesn't mean I don't have weak days, but for the most part, we handle it very well."

The situation has also been a challenge for their children, 8-year-old Kaeden and 13-year-old Kennedy.

"It's been tough," Jennifer Greer said. "The older one, I think she keeps it in. Kaeden, he wants to know when dad gets better if he's going to be able to play with him ... (also wants to know) how long does he have to stay when he goes to the hospital. It's a lot of hard questions. We keep him occupied with other things. You never want a kid to have to worry."

One of Markus Greer's biggest concerns is the medication he'll need going forward.

"The only thing I'm really worried about is the medication they require," Markus Greer said. "They said it brings down the immune system. If you do get the kidney, it gives you the opportunity to accept the kidney.

"Health insurance doesn't cover (the medication). I'm not sure if TennCare or Medicare would cover it. I've applied for that. If you get the kidney, there's three different types of medications that you have to be on for life. They range from $2,500 to $3,000... one is $4000, and another is $3000. They said that once you get the transplant, you have to have that medication ... there's no if, ands and butts about it. I'm going to go out and play the lottery."

Regardless of what happens moving forward, Markus Greer understands the serious nature of the situation he faces.

"It's something I wouldn't want anybody to go through," Markus Greer said. "It's really draining.

"I've got to get used to being on dialysis for the rest of my life or get a kidney. One or the other is going to happen. It's very stressful."

Jennifer Greer added, "It's super scary. We have an 8-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. I don't want to be raising them by myself. I want him to see his kids grow up. Everybody wants to see their kids grow up."