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Dublin Grandfather needs lung transplant

By Orlando Salinas, osalinas@wdbj7.com
Published On: Jul 17 2013 04:55:34 PM EDT
Updated On: Jul 17 2013 06:34:22 PM EDT

Donald Ratcliffe is battling emphysema. His friends are trying to raise money for him.

PULASKI CO., Va. -

Almost every day, we hear stories about people who can't afford to pay their medical bills. We met a family that's trying to raise money to pay for their Grandpa's lung transplant.

Six foot six Donald Ratcliffe was crammed into a lazy boy inside his Dublin home. I sat across from him. Next to Ratcliffe's left leg was an oxygen machine about the size of backpack, that sounded as if it were breathing on its own.

Ratcliffe spoke about how he'd been having a hard time breathing.

"I went to the Doctor in December 05 and couldn't breathe," Ratcliffe said.

Eight years ago, Donald says his doctor just came out and said it, "[The doctor] looked at me and said 'We've got your test results back, you have stage four emphysema.'''

After 42 years of marriage, all kinds of pictures surround Ratcliffe. His living room looks exactly what he and his wife Mary are; proud parents and grandparents. It's hard to find an empty spot on the walls of his home, there are pictures of his three kids when they were in high school and of course, his grandkids. Donald is proud.

"I have three lovely kids and I have three even more lovely grandkids and I want to be around to see them grow up," Ratcliffe said.

Donald says he's been accepted into a unique lung transplant program at Duke Medical Center. He's not on a list where it could be years before he's the next in line.

Before the transplant, Duke has its patients doing serious rehab for several months, "Then when that's done' said Ratcliffe, 'they put you on a transplant list then in 15 to 30 days they have you a set of lungs."

Donald says his part of the bill will be $20,000. To help the family pay off their portion, local stores are collecting donations and friends are raising more money.

Inside the "Stop in Food Store" on State Park Road, on the counter where customers pay, there's a glass jar with a picture and a short story about what Donald Ratcliffe is trying to do.

Scott McCoy is part of the staff at the store and said it simply, "We're part of the community. These people are our customers, they keep us in business. Without them we're nothing."

Back inside the Ratcliffe home more family members were showing up. Three cousins sat close, all under 11. They were listening, their hearts were breaking as they heard their grandfather share his story. Their grandmother Mary, pointed to nine-year-old Delaney sitting on the floor, just feet from her Grandfather.

"[Delaney] wrote a letter to God' said Mary while wiping her eyes, "and to Santa Clause and said that all she wanted was that her Papa get better."

Donald seemed to keep a steady nerve. He spoke about his bible on the side table, he said it was his favorite book and that he'd read it front to back, many times. Then he told me about what happened last week at his grandkids vacation bible school.

''The kids took up an offering and on Friday night they had given 187 dollars and some cents. They donated that to my fund. I thank God for kids!" Ratcliffe said.

The next big fundraiser is set for September 14 at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Pulaski. You can make a donation to the Donald Ratcliffe Fund at Carter Bank and Trust in Pulaski and on Facebook @ Donald Ratcliffe, Dublin, Virginia.