Neal Dillow gets through life by cracking jokes and having fun. He enjoys hanging out with his prankster friends while playing Dungeons & Dragons and traveling for gaming conventions. He also has a big heart. Neal and his wife, Lisa, of Waynesboro, Va., are known for adopting cats.
“We take the lost causes,” Lisa said. “We’ve got one with three paws. We’ve got one that’s blind and one has a cataract. A lot of them have PTSD. We get phone calls asking if we can handle another one and we tell them no, we’re at our limit, with eight cats and a dog.”
Neal got sick one year in February during a vacation. He had congestive heart failure, pneumonia, and kidney failure all at once. His condition was related in part to an illness he had as a child. Neal immediately went on dialysis and ended up on the National Transplant Waiting List.
After a year and half, he received a kidney, but it failed after two weeks. It was a tough situation, but Neal tried not to let it get him down. The couple continued traveling and enjoying life as much as they could while dealing with being tied to dialysis. It could be especially stressful for Lisa, who worked hard to make sure Neal stayed as healthy as possible, including adhering to the transplant diet.
Then something unexpected happened. It was April Fool’s Day, and the phone rang at 10:30 p.m. It was VCU’s Transplant Center saying that a kidney was available. Given the couple’s friends, they thought it might be a prank. “They assured me it wasn’t a joke,” Neal said.
This time the transplant was successful. The Dillows could now enjoy life without worrying about dialysis. They are both incredibly grateful to the donor who gave Neal a second chance. “Thank you for giving my husband back to me,” Lisa said. “We’ve been together 10 years now. He got sick two and a half years into it. It’s been a wild crazy ride, but it’s been an enjoyable one. He’s worth it.”