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Through a series of dramatic twists and turns, a Waldorf man has made himself into an advocate for the greater good.

Ellery Payton, a single father and Waldorf resident, adopted his son, Caleb, now 13, when he was just 2 weeks old. Shortly thereafter, Payton learned that he was suffering from issues with his kidney related to his high blood pressure. While his son was still an infant in March 2003, Payton underwent his first kidney transplant and began dialysis.

“I was on medication because my blood pressure was really, really high,” Payton said. “The medication didn’t work. I guess it was out of control.”

Years later, he began to develop more complications, and had to undergo more dialysis. He received a second transplant last July. For the second round of dialysis, Payton opted for home treatment.

“I just didn’t want it to have to affect my son,” Payton said. “I wanted to still be involved.”

Since the second transplant, things have gone relatively smoothly for Payton.

“After that, I live my life month to month. It’s probably less stress on my body,” Payton said. “I’m just making sure I can keep everything where it’s supposed to be and keep myself healthy.”

The financial hardships of his situation prompted Payton to apply for a grant from the American Kidney Fund for assistance with the cost of his health insurance premiums, and ultimately become a member of the organization’s advocacy program. American Kidney Fund Senior Director of Communications Tenee Hawkins said that out of the 1,400 advocates nationwide, Payton’s story made him a natural fit when he was selected to travel to Capitol Hill and speak to the importance of continued Medicare and Medicaid funding, along with increased awareness for kidney health.

“We had about 40 applicants to go to the Hill. Eleven were chosen, and 10 went,” Hawkins said. “Ellery just had such an amazing story. Being a dialysis patient while trying to live as a single dad really stuck out to us. With the amazing initiative he took reaching out to us to tell his story and share his interest, we knew he would resonate.”

Payton’s trip took place earlier this month. That day, he met with staffers from the offices of U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D) and Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D) and Ben Cardin (D).

“I was able to share my story, and the basic point I was advocating was not having the Medicare cuts,” Payton said. “I shared how this has personally affected me. ... I was firsthand the kind of person that needs this coverage, and I don’t want to have to go through that process a third time.”

To keep himself healthy, Payton said he currently takes 24 different medications each day.

“It’s becoming an additional expense for me on top of everything else I have to do,” Payton said. “Overall, I think [the staffers] were very interested in my story and what I had to tell them. They were very receptive.”

Hawkins said the America nKidney Fund was pleased with Payton’s work on the Hill.

“We plan on keeping him very involved,” Hawkins said. “His story is so great, and he tells it so well.”

Payton said that through it all, his son has been his driving force to stay healthy.

“He motivates me. That’s been my life savior,” he said. “This is kind of like one of those backburner diseases that doesn’t get much attention, so I had to find something to pull me through.”

lrenner@somdnews.com