By Elizabeth Lancaster
The Parsons Advocate
After the 2006 fire that ripped through their home, Cheri Wilson and her son, Stevie Owens, Jr. are no strangers to media attention. Owens was burned over 93 percent of his body. His difficult recovery became the focus of many in Tucker County for years. These days Owens is a healthy young man living in Elkins, preparing for a career in corrections at the Tygarts Valley Regional Jail. His mother, however, is not so lucky. Wilson suffers from stage five renal failure and is in need of a kidney transplant.
Wilson said her kidneys began to fail over the last year. Once the decision to undergo a transplant was made, her three sons, Owens, Karl Nilsson of Morgantown and Josh Abalahin of Fairmont wanted to be tested as organ donors. According to Wilson, Owens insisted on being tested first. “I’ve been through more surgeries than my brothers and I’d rather be the one to go through it. Besides, she came to Cincinnati to stay with me at the Shriner’s Hospital for three months after I was injured−this is a way I can show her how much I appreciate the sacrifice she made for me. I am helping her in a way like she helped me,” stated Owens. Test results determined he is a match and thus will donate a kidney to his mother on January 8th at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He said he is a little anxious about the surgery and will be glad once it is over, but he is happy to be able to help his mom.
Wilson explained, “Stevie will go in to surgery first. I will be waiting in a second operating room. Halfway through his surgery mine will begin. They will not remove my kidneys, but will put the new kidney behind my pelvic bone. The doctors say our single kidneys should enlarge to compensate for only having one.” Wilson said she is more worried about her son than her own surgery. “I always took care of him. Now, it’s gonna be left up to his brothers. I know he’s gonna be in good hands. It’s just not the same as Mom.”
Wilson’s husband, Jon, will care for her after surgery. “He’s worried about me like a mother hen,” said Wilson. She and Jon will stay in Pittsburgh for about one month after her surgery. She hopes to return home before her 45th birthday in February.
Medical expenses for both surgeries will be covered by insurance, but the Wilsons must pay for their own living expenses during their stay in Pittsburgh and submit receipts for reimbursement. “Everyone helped us so much the last time. I hate to ask for help again. We’ve been trying to set aside money to cover our expenses, but it will be tough,” she explained. According to Wilson, the Rhododendron 4-H group of Tucker County insisted on helping and will host a benefit bake sale December 23. Wilson said she is appreciative of the support she has received. “I definitely think everyone’s prayers are helping.”
She concluded, “I think it’s amazing for Stevie to be doing this after all he’s been through. I am so grateful to him for doing this−he’s a great son anyway, but he never thought twice.”