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Father Daughter Dance: A Teenager Talks About Her Hero

 Dorrell Mays is on the wait list for a kidney transplant, and his daughter Laila is trying to get the word out about organ donation.
Basim Blunt
Dorrell Mays is on the wait list for a kidney transplant, and his daughter Laila is trying to get the word out about organ donation.

My name is Laila. I am 17 and I'm currently a senior, getting ready to go off to school. I plan to commit to the University of Cincinnati to major in nursing. I enjoy being with my family and friends, and just being caring and nurturing towards others. My story is about bringing awareness to kidney failure.

I live here in Centerville with my mom, Velvet, my dad, Dorrell, and my sister Dorian. When I was in first grade, I would say I lived the normal life as a kid, living worry free, always having fun and always having the best time with my dad. My dad is six feet tall, husky build, dark skin, and in his words, very handsome. He's always been a music producer. He used to travel a lot between Chicago, his hometown. My dad is a family guy. He would always take us to the park and play tickle monster with Dorian and me. Our lives were forever changed when my dad got the call telling him that his kidneys were shutting down.

He said he had this feeling like it was God telling him to answer the phone. We never answered our house phone. But that day, my dad did.

That was only the beginning.

Like any normal person, he panicked. One of the greatest things about my mom, she's a deep woman of faith. She told him to be calm, pray and she would get to the hospital where she would meet him. My mom tried to explain to my sister, Dorian and me what was going on with our dad. We were only six, maybe seven years old. And all I could think was, he's not feeling well and the doctors are going to make him all better.

But little did I know my dad Dorrell was in a hospital bed, being told how his whole entire life was going to change.

"Am I going to die?" he wondered, and the doctor told him no.

This was a very difficult time for our family, but we were strong and we got through it. Recently, my family and I were sitting together. My dad was talking about this period in his life.

"Many people don't know that you can live a healthy life with one kidney. I encourage people to be a donor," he said. "Anytime I would go to the DMV and they would ask you, 'Do you want to be a living donor?' I would say no. It wasn't until I experienced my journey that I realized the importance of being a donor and now, your mom and I both are donors.

My dad said one of the things he always wanted to ask me is how I felt about him being on dialysis on all these year.

"Honestly, like some days it's hard," I told him. "Some days you're just kind of down or like in pain because of some things that come with kidney failure, like especially seeing you, like on the machine at home. Sorry, I'm getting emotional. God. People should know that, there are good days and there are bad days."

"My day will come to where I will give my healing. We will rejoice in me getting a victory of a transplant," he said.

After 11 years on dialysis, my dad finally received a call from Cincinnati telling him that he is active on the kidney transplant list. He's improved his eating habits. He likes going on walks, does exercises at home, and has become more appreciative and connected to our family. He even found a new passion for cooking over the years, which we all enjoy. As a result, our lives are much less stressful and happy. My dad's kidney failure really brought our family closer together and it made me learn to enjoy every moment.

If I were to ever marry, I would want someone just like him. Strong, resilient, a protector, and prepared to overcome adversity.

More than 3,000 Ohioans are currently on the waiting list for life-saving organ transplants. Learn more at https://www.donatelifeohio.org or 1-888-745-1511.

Laila Mays is a student at Centerville High School. Special thanks to Tricia Rapoch, teacher for the Communication Arts Program at Centerville High School. Learn more at the school's website: http://www.centerville.k12.oh.us/CHS. Dayton Youth Radio is supported by the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council and the CenterPoint Energy Foundation.

Digital production help from Maddy Stephenson.

This story was created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Copyright 2021 WYSO. To see more, visit WYSO.

Basim has worked in the media for over twenty years, as an A&R rep with Capitol Records and as a morning drive show producer. He is a filmmaker, media arts adjunct, and also a digital editing teacher in the Dayton Metro area. In 2012 he joined WYSO as a Community Voices Producer, and his work has earned him a “New Voices” Scholar award by (AIR) Association of Independents in Radio. Basim has produced the award-winning documentary Boogie Nights: A History of Funk Music in Dayton. He also served as Project Manager for ReInvention Stories, a multimedia docu-series produced by Oscar-winning filmmakers Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert. In 2020, Blunt received a PMJA (Public Media Journalists Association) award for his WYSO series Dayton Youth Radio, for which he is the founding producer and instructor. Basim spins an eclectic mix of funk, soul, and classic R&B every Friday night from 10:00 pm to midnight, as host of the 91.3 FM music show Behind the Groove.