Stepping to the plate

Published 9:40 am Monday, November 27, 2017

GREENVILLE – Brandon Hodges has stepped to the plate, both physically and figuratively, on numerous occasions during his 42 years on Earth.

Whether it was a high school athlete looking for a mentor to help sharpen their skills, or a young family member seeking a role model to guide them through a tough time in their life, Hodges has answered their call for assistance.

Now the proverbial shoe is on the other foot as Hodges requires a medical procedure if he wants to live to see his two young children possibly grow and mature into the God-fearing and big-hearted man he is today.

Hodges, a Como native and former head baseball coach at his high school alma mater – Hertford County – as well as at Ridgecroft School, is battling IgA nephritis. He can survive through periodic dialysis, but only a kidney transplant can give Hodges the quality of life he seeks.

IgA refers to the antibody molecule. This is a normal substance present in all of us that helps to fight infections in the throat, airways, and intestine.

In IgA nephritis, the antibody gets deposited in an abnormal way in the filter units of the kidneys. The build-up of this material damages the filtering units, allowing protein and blood to leak into the urine. Both kidneys are equally affected by this condition. This is a kidney disfunction that worsens with age.

“I was 14-years-old when I was initially diagnosed with IgA nephritis,” said Hodges, who now lives in Greenville where he teaches Physical Education and coaches baseball and junior varsity girls basketball at The Oakwood School.

“This disease slowly deteriorates my kidneys and will eventually lead to stopping all kidney functions,” Hodges continued. Healthy kidneys function at between 80 and 100 percent. Right now, mine function at between 12 to 16 percent, meaning I’m at Stage 4, bordering on Stage 5, with this disease.”

Anyone at any age can get IgA nephritis or nephropathy, although it’s more common in men. Caucasians and Asians also have a higher incidence of this disease than other ethnic groups.

Medical officials are still uncertain why IgA traps itself in the kidneys. In some cases, it can develop after a child or young adult has a viral infection of the upper respiratory or gastrointestinal tracts. For some people, a genetic defect may be linked to its development.

From an outward appearance, Hodges looks extremely healthy.

“I’m sick on the inside; I have issues with fatigue and I’m starting to feel the effects of this disease,” said Hodges, a 1993 graduate of Hertford County High School where he was a standout athlete on the Bears baseball team. “My only full cure is a kidney transplant.

“I’ve been blessed enough to keep the rest of my body healthy, that’s what keeps me going, but my doctor told me that I’m just a cold, flu or stomach bug away from being put on dialysis,” he added.

Hodges – married to his high school sweetheart (the former Anna Overton of Ahoskie) and the father of two children (Isaac, 13, and Cali, 8) – is under the medical care of doctors at Duke University Hospital.

“They (doctors) want me to find a living donor,” Hodges noted. “Because of my blood type (A-positive), it can take as long as five years to find a compatible donor that’s deceased. With the pace my kidneys are deteriorating, I’ll be on dialysis by that time.”

The “magical” cure is finding a living donor.

“My prognosis is good with a live transplant; the doctors are saying I can live a full, normal life,” Hodges stressed.

Those wishing to see if they are compatible to donate a kidney to Hodges can place a simple phone call to get started. Call 1-919-613-7777. You’ll be asked for the patient’s full name (Rodney Brandon Hodges) and his birthdate (05/30/1975).

With or without an answer to his medical issues, Hodges said he’s at peace with the ordeal.

“I’m just giving it all to God. I know God will take care of me no matter the situation,” Hodges concluded.

Hodges coached baseball at HCHS from 2003-03 and was the head coach in his final year. After stints as a pitching coach at both Pitt Community College for two years and South Central High School (in Pitt County) for six years, Hodges returned to his native soil as a classroom teacher and head varsity baseball coach at Ridgecroft School for two years.

He is a 2009 graduate of East Carolina University with a degree in Sports Studies.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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