Friends start donation drive to contribute to cost of liver transplantPublished 12:10pm Sunday, September 22, 2013
It’s the night of the Wetumpka-Prattville game at Hohenberg Stadium, and Erich “E.J.” Flynn meanders in wearing his number 71 freshmen football jersey and sunglasses.
Sunglasses shield his eyes from the sun, but it’s almost set.
Sunglasses hide expression, and can even pep your step with swelling confidence. In sunglasses, when you look good, you feel good.
E.J. feels good tonight. But lately, those days have been few and far between.
Recently, Flynn has been diagnosed with Progressive Familial Intrahepatic Cholestasis (PFIC).
PFIC is a rare genetic disorder, that in most cases, reveals itself in 1- to 2-year-old infants. It prevents the liver from properly transporting bile from its cells which can lead to liver damage.
PFIC is initially treated with long-named medications. If medicinal treatment doesn’t work, then a liver transplant is needed.
E.J. needs a liver transplant. In spite of that fact, he’s still a normal 14-year-old kid.
“I get up, move to my living room, play some X-Box, eat something,” he said, describing a normal day for him. “It’s really just a boring day.”
He can’t attend school and be around his friends since the effects of PFIC have compromised his immune system, making him susceptible to illness.
Freshman English teacher Cynthia McTier comes to Flynn’s house to help him with his schoolwork.
“It’s kind of best that he stays home,” his grandmother, Gloria Flynn said. “The thing is, he just gets so tired. He has good days and bad days. There’s days that he stays in bed all day and there’s days that he can be up and doing things.
“He just misses his friends.”
E.J. and his friends have a close relationship. When word got around that he was sick, his friends wanted to help.
Sydney McKissick, a close friend of E.J.’s since the first-grade, told her mom, Laurie McKissick, that she wanted to ask Wetumpka High School principal Cindy Veazey if her and other close friends of Flynn could raise money at Wetumpka’s home football games.
Veazey emphatically agreed, and the Wetumpka-Prattville game was the first “Erich Flynn Night.”
“My mom always told me to help people that needed it, and I just wanted to help my friend,” Sydney McKissick said.
“When she heard about E.J. and his situation, she came to me and said she wanted to help him,” Laurie McKissick added. “I’m just so very proud.”
E.J. said he was touched when he heard his friends were doing everything they could to help him.
“Over the years being friends with them, we’ve built a good relationship,” he said. “I’ve known Sydney since the first grade, so just over the years it’s grown.
“It just made me happy to know that.”
The first “Erich Flynn Night” received donations totaling $1,539.65 — a small portion of the $50,000 it will cost the Flynn family for the liver transplant.
E.J’.s mother, Iris Diaz Flynn, has been working two jobs. E.J.’s father, Erich II, drives a truck for Hyundai and works extended hours.
E.J. has had a liver biopsy, a $42,00 procedure that the Flynn’s have already begun paying back.
Once E.J. receives the transplant, he’ll be on medications for the rest of his life costing $2,000 a month, according to doctors.
Nikki Moats, a family friend, started mobilizing donation efforts first, Gloria said. They have a long way to go, but they’re not worried about the cost or the road ahead.
“The money is not a concern because we’d do whatever we have to do,” she said. “It’s like Nikki said, ‘no family should have to go broke having to save their child’s life.’ And that’s why she started getting the ball rolling.
“The family, the churches were just, ‘OK, what can we do?’ We’ve been overwhelmed with the help from the churches. Hillside Baptist and Grace Point have been really good. (Iris) and (Erich II) are just overwhelmed. So Nikki said, ‘don’t do nothing, I’ll do everything.’ Then, these girls at the school took it upon themselves to (coordinate ‘Erich Flynn Night’), which is mind-boggling and it’s been wonderful.”
The response and support the family and E.J. have received from the Wetumpka community, his schoolmates and teammates has been moving.
E.J. knows that everyone is behind him, and that lifts his spirit.
“(My parents) tell me to be positive. My teammates have told me that ‘you’re not alone, that everybody’s with me and let’s just all try to get through this together.’”
“It’s a bit overwhelming for us, I don’t know any other way to describe it,” Gloria added. “Everybody has wanted to help, wanted to know how they can help. I’m just so grateful that we’re in Wetumpka because this community is wonderful. I would not give it up for nothing.”
E.J. dips his head slightly and lifts up his sunglasses to wipe away a tear. He repositions them and briefly collects his emotions.
“I’m pretty confident (I’ll beat this),” he said. “I have some days that I doubt some stuff, but overall I know I’m going to be able to get back up.”
To donate to the E.J. Relief Fund, stop by the Wells Fargo bank or mail donations to 135 Granite Way, Wetumpka, AL 36093.