USF student behind #AKidneyForJoey now has cancer

Joey Richman is again fighting for his life
Posted at 5:16 PM, Aug 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-05 17:27:53-04

Joey Richman always knew he'd one day need a new kidney because of a genetic disease he was born with called Alport's Syndrome.

When the time came, Joey's family started a social media campaign to find him a new kidney, called #AKidneyForJoey

Soon, Joey's story was being shared online by people all over the Tampa Bay Area, including on ABC Action News.

The campaign worked. A total stranger to the Richman family, an MMA fighter from the Tampa Bay Area, saw the online campaign and stepped up. He was a match.

In April, the surgery was a success, and Richman, who lives with his family in Wesley Chapel, was even planning to go back to school this fall.

"He was getting ready to start picking out his classes, him and his younger brother going to USF," explains Joey's mom Dana Richman.

But several weeks after the surgery, and just as Joey was embracing normalcy, Joey got sick again.

"That weekend he was up on the roof fixing a hole, a leak that had happened," explains Dana. "And later that weekend he got really sick. He just thought it was ulcers from the medication he was on. And a month ago, July 5th, he was back in the emergency room."

This time, the news was even worse than they could have expected. Joey was suffering from a rare complication from the kidney transplant: Joey has Lymphoma, a kind of cancer.

"Which was terrifying for him because he spent his whole life preparing his body and mind for a kidney transplant and now they're saying that doesn't matter anymore the cancer that you have ...

Joey spent the past several weeks in the hospital.

"It became hour by hour, you know, let's hope he's alive in an hour," says Dana Richman. "He wasn't responding. His body wasn't responding to anything. His white blood cell count zeroed out. He was terrified."

Joey Richman, the son of an Army veteran, fought on, and today, he is doing a little better. The white blood cells finally came back and today he got a second of six chemotherapy treatments. He's still fighting for his life. And to make matters worse, his family is piling up debt.

"I'm not able to work right now so obviously there's very limited funding. Float the house, float the utilities, back and forth to the hospital," explains Dana Richman.

And he's still at risk of losing the donated kidney.

If you're interested in helping Joey, you can learn more on their online crowd-sourcing campaign.