Fort Mill Times

Musician, teacher “Eddie Z” needs help, but wants focus on others

Eddie “Eddie Z” Zimmerman is usually helping other people through his work with the band Charity Case. It isn’t often that he needs help himself.

It’s even less often that he asks for help.

Even now, 14 months after discovering he is suffering from stage five renal failure, Zimmerman, 46, still isn’t asking. However, he wants to share his story in the hopes that it might help others and maybe increase someone’s chances of getting a kidney transplant.

“Goal one is to raise awareness and goal two is to add to the donor pool,” Zimmerman said. “No one knows about [kidney disease.] No one hears about this. No advocates talk about how horrendous this dialysis stuff is.”

Zimmerman is the owner of The Playroom Academy of Music in Baxter Village and The Playroom, a recording and rehearsal studio in Charlotte. He is also a founding member of the band Charity Case, which raises money for Grin Kids, a nonprofit organization that takes terminally ill and chronically handicapped children and their families for an all-expenses paid trip to Disney World each year.

He has launched in the hopes that his story will help put a public face on the disease and encourage people to become a kidney donor.

Zimmerman was diagnosed with renal failure in July 2012. He was put on dialysis immediately and told by his doctor that without it, he would be dead within eight days.

Now, Zimmerman is on dialysis three days a week for approximately four hours at a time. Some people are able to relax and sleep during the process, Zimmerman said, but in the months that he has been on dialysis, he has never been able to get comfortable.

“It’s like being attached to an-ass kicking machine that never runs out of energy,” he said. “It’s such a strange process. It’s so not normal. We’re just not built to have our blood taken out and put back in.”

Doctors don’t know what caused the kidney failure, Zimmerman said.

Immediately after diagnosis, Zimmerman began the process of getting on the transplant list. He had to go through extensive physical, mental and financial evaluations, he said. It took six months to be approved for the transplant list and it is estimated that, without a volunteer donor that is a match, it will take five years before a kidney becomes available.

Waiting list is long

He’s not alone. There are nearly 100,000 people in the United States waiting for kidney transplants, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing and fewer than 20,000 are performed annually.

“I don’t know if I can survive five and-a-half years on dialysis, mentally and physically. I can’t tell you what a grind it is. I need to find someone who can be a donor because if I can find a donor I can make it happen quick,” Zimmerman said.

In the meantime, Zimmerman continues to work and keep up his rigorous schedule. He’ll perform with Charity Case on Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Tega Cay End of Summer Bash, at the Golf and Conference Center parking lot.

This will be Charity Case’s first performance since Zimmerman’s announcement. They’ll be promoting the website, and handing out bracelets, also available on the website.

“I’ve tried not to slow down. Everything I’ve read says that the most successful people on dialysis are the people who continue to live their lives. Depression runs wild with dialysis patients because there is no light at the end of the tunnel. My kidneys are done. There is no bringing them back. They will never function again correctly,” Zimmerman said.

Helping him through the last 14 months since diagnosis, and through the future months, have been his family and friends, including longtime girlfriend Vicki Shackelford and son Alex Zimmerman. Vicki is “rock solid,” he said.

Alex is “a trooper.”

“I want to see my son go to college, and quite frankly this thing has pissed me off and I’m not going to let it beat me,” Zimmerman added.

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