Father asks community to help find kidney for ailing son

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH – A desperate father, a parishioner at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, is making a plea to other Catholics and anyone else who will listen.

He’d like to find someone who would be willing to donate a kidney to save his son.

James Colantino, 75, is the father of Christian, 43, and Jimmy, 46, two sons who are blind and have learning disabilities. Christian’s kidneys are near failure – they’re functioning at about 20 percent right now. The family moved to North Myrtle Beach six years ago. Before they moved, both sons helped James with his shoe store in Greensburg, Pa. They have both been in a school for the blind and in programs to learn how to become self-sufficient.

Colantino started his appeal for a kidney donation after medical professionals told the family that spreading the word might help.

One of the first things Colantino did was to reach out to his parish family at Our Lady Star of the Sea through an item in an October bulletin.

Ed Vaitis, a fellow parishioner, responded. He contacted the family and got the phone number in Charleston to call and see about being tested. But Vaitis, a volunteer paramedic in North Myrtle Beach, is the wrong blood type. Christian Colantino needs a type O blood donor.

Vaitis was modest about his attempt to save a life.

“I’ve got two (kidneys), ” he said. “If someone else can live longer with mine, why not?”

Vaitis said he was somewhat familiar with the Colantino family because he and his wife, Joan, are ushers and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist – and they always see James, his wife Sandra, and their two sons at Mass.

“I wish I could do more,” Vaitis said. “We’ve been so blessed ourselves.”

So far, Colantino said, a few others have come forward, but they are not matches either.

Christian is on the waiting list for a kidney at Duke University Hospital, the Medical University of South Carolina and the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. It is hard to say when he could get a kidney because more people are added to the waiting lists as time goes on, meaning that the waiting time for a kidney increases, Colantino said.

He said his son understands everything about what’s wrong with him.

“He is always next to me – he’s always at my side,” he said. “I think I’m his security blanket.”

Christian spends much of the day listening to audio books and the radio. He is on medication and not dialysis; Colantino said he doesn’t think his son is emotionally able to handle the treatments. Jimmy’s kidneys are operating at about 60 percent, so he can’t donate.

Their loving father prays daily. He naturally thinks of the future, hoping that his sons will be taken care of after he and his wife are gone.

“We just need to get one (kidney) as soon as possible,” he said.

Anyone interested in seeing if they can donate a kidney to help Christian Colantino can call the family. They will provide the contact information for MUSC to determine whether or not they can proceed. The procedure itself will not cost the donor anything.

To see if you can be a donor, call James Colantino at (843) 390-4213.