Brookville Man With End-Stage Kidney Failure Fighting for Life

BROOKVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – Everyday life has become an ongoing battle for a Brookville man battling diabetes and end-stage kidney failure.

John Dunham, a Brookville area native, has a long history in Jefferson County. He attended Brookville Area School District, acquired his first local job at the age of 15, and started his family in the area. His wife, Jessica was a native of the Punxsutawney area. Both of their adult children reside in Brookville. John’s stepson Austin Megofna, is a volunteer firefighter.

Needless to say, the family has roots in the community.

John was very active at one point in his life – he enjoyed everything from kayaking and walking his dogs to riding his Harley and working as a Road Inspector for a consultant company for PennDOT. Nevertheless, his health problems actually began when he was diagnosed with diabetes as a teenager.

While he managed his diabetes for many years, in the last decade his sugar levels began to get out of control, spiking high and diving low without warning. Doctors then discovered John had developed gastroparesis, a disease common among diabetics in which the stomach cannot empty itself of food in a normal fashion. In his case, he required gastric bypass surgery to correct the condition.

According to Jessica, the gastric bypass surgery seemed to help at first. John was able to return to many of his regular activities, including kayaking and riding his motorcycle, but unfortunately, his good health didn’t last.

“It helped for about a year,” Jessica told

John ended up suffering some complications from the surgery, including extreme weight loss, with a loss of over 200 pounds, beyond what was healthy for his body. The combination of his diabetes and high blood pressure severely damaged his kidneys.

“He was in stage three kidney disease when they did the bypass, and it helped for a while, but his kidneys were just too far gone, and they went crazy,” Jessica noted.

Since November of 2018, John has been hospitalized in Pittsburgh 17 times. At the age of 45, he is now in end-stage kidney failure, and he has developed diabetic neuropathy in his hands and feet, causing him extreme difficulty moving around independently. He has also developed painful calcifications which may result in additional trips to Pittsburgh for treatment.

“All of the trips to Pittsburgh and John not being able to work anymore, it’s just taken a toll on us,” explained Jessica.

He currently does at-home dialysis, which was recently increased, and is on the transplant list awaiting a kidney. However, Jessica also noted that even if a kidney became available right now, he would be unable to have the surgery in his current condition due to the protein levels in his blood, which are too low for surgery. Due to his low protein blood count, he struggles to eat and is either unable to keep his food down or suffers severe stomach pain after eating.

While John is unable to work, constantly having to make trips to Pittsburgh and undergoing dialysis treatments at home, he has been repeatedly denied for disability, leaving the family short on income at a time when they are also spending more on his medical expenses.

“We’re going on four years fighting disability. They say being under 50, there are so many stipulations, it just seems like there’s nothing we can do,” Jessica noted.

“John has been having thoughts of giving up, but he still hasn’t.”

Even though John isn’t the type to ask for help, his sister Carey Dunham-Miholics, of CM Photography, decided to spearhead a fundraiser for John and his family in their time of need.

She was able to get help and advice on organizing from her friends at the Friends of Christian Organization, who she has taken photos for over the last few years, as well as a donation from a local chapter of ABATE to cover the cost of the food for the meal.

A spaghetti and meatball benefit dinner for John will be held at the Fireman’s Club in Brookville on Sunday, April 14, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The cost of the dinner is $8.00 for adults and $5.00 for children.

There will be a raffle and auction items available during the event.

For additional information, or to make a donation, call 814-715-6516 or 814-648-0408.

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