It’s been a tough winter health-wise for Michael Okwabi, a beloved band teacher at Eden Prairie High School (EPHS), who suffers from stage 4 kidney disease.
One bright spot, however, has been the strong support Okwabi, his wife Tori, and their daughter Mya have received from the school community over these past few difficult months.
Okwabi was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage 4 kidney disease at the end of 2022, a complication of the Type 1 diabetes he has been managing since he was 21.
Further compounding matters, in mid-February, Okwabi fell ill with COVID-19 and pneumonia after a school band trip to Florida. These illnesses worsened his existing condition, and on Feb. 14, he was hospitalized due to complications surrounding his kidney disease.
Fortunately, Okwabi is now recovering from the effects of COVID and pneumonia. However, he has started dialysis three times a week to try to remove fluid buildup.
Okwabi will eventually need a kidney transplant, so the next journey will be to find a possible donor match.
Meanwhile, Okwabi’s energy levels are depleted, and he is unable to teach. Hospital care and dialysis are placing a heavy financial burden on the Okwabi family.
How to support the Okwabi family
Katie Pargal, an EPHS parent and string instructor, started a GoFundMe last month to help support the Okwabi family. The link can be found here.
“Mike Okwabi is the life of the party, he brings people together and has an infectious ability to make you laugh,” Pargal wrote on the GoFundMe page, adding, “If you know Mike he’s not one to ask for help. But things have changed. The medical expenses will continue to grow until Mike’s new kidney is in place.”
Pargal can be contacted through the GoFundMe page for anyone who wants to learn more about ways to support the family. As of press time, $39,730 of the $50,000 goal had been raised.
In the coming months, the Okwabi family will also be looking for friends and family members to consider getting tested to see if they are a possible kidney donor match. Anyone interested in learning more about this option can email Okwabi’s wife, Tori, at email@example.com.
Michael Okwabi asked EPLN to add a link to Minnesota’s organ donor website for others in need. The national organ donor website can be viewed here and the Minnesota registry is here.
Okwabi said he hopes his story will help raise awareness about the need to support diabetes and kidney research.
“There are kids and students that I have seen in the past and present that deal with this every day,” Okwabi said. “I am definitely not the only one or the last one.”
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