VACAVILLE — Lee Lofton and Walter Weir may never have met if not for certain circumstances.
Weir, 56, grew up in Vacaville. He worked as a newspaper photographer, mortician and had his own hot dog stand in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
Lofton is 15 years older, a father of six and former general contractor.
Visits three times a week to the DaVita dialysis center on Parker Street brought the pair together. Conversation started and the idea for a new support group, open to their fellow dialysis “troopers,” their caregivers, family and friends, was born. The group plans to start next month at the Vacaville facility.
“Dialysis is not a place you come to die,” Lofton said. “It’s a place you come to learn to live your life all over again.”
He’s been on dialysis 11 years. Weir has been on it for six years.
Their lives have changed dramatically. Their loved ones have made major adjustments, too.
Lofton is concerned that his wife of 32 years won’t take care of herself because she’s too busy caring for him. He maintains his independence with the help of two prosthetic legs and an electric wheelchair.
“My doctors take care of me,” he said. “No one takes care of her. It’s my responsibility to make things better for her.”
Weir, like Lofton, has a motorized chair to get him around. He’s lost one leg. His partner works in San Francisco so Weir has learned to call on friends when he needs help. He was watering his yard in the wheelchair a few days ago and the water hose got wrapped around it. He cut the hose with a pair of gardening shears to free the wheelchair.
The men realized the importance of launching a support group after the attempted suicide of a fellow dialysis patient, Weir said.
Weir arrives about an hour early each dialysis day to check in with the other patients.
“I want to know how they are doing,” he said.
Lofton also socializes with the others having dialysis at the same time. He’s concerned about others in the same condition who want to give up. His faith encouraged him to go from hospice to dialysis, Lofton said.
“You may not like (having to do) it,” he said of dialysis. “But there’s a purpose.”
He’s walked away from dialysis twice. Two of his children, a 25-year-old daughter and 51-year-old son, are both on dialysis at different centers, he said.
“Dialysis doesn’t discriminate,” Lofton said. “It all depends on how you deal with it.”
For more information on the group, call Pamela Henry at 453-1325.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.