Clifton Agee is a dialysis patient with a passion for helping people. Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he had many positive role models that influenced his desire to help others.
One of these role models includes his mother, Vera, who worked as an in-home childcare provider. While raising her own four children, she also cared for the neighborhood kids so their parents could go to work. Clifton admired her for this and often helped her care for the children after school and during the summers.
As a child, Clifton attended the Boys Club (now Boys and Girls Clubs of America), where he had many helpful mentors in the program. Eventually, he became a mentor when the Boys Club gave him his first summer job in high school.
Basketball has always been an outlet and a big part of Clifton’s life growing up. He played basketball inside and outside of school and eventually started coaching.
Over time, Clifton became a part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. His mother signed him up when his older brother, Art, left to serve in the United States Marine Corps. She was looking for someone to be a male role model in his life. Clifton fondly remembers it as an enjoyable experience where he got to see and do many things for the first time, such as going to his first Brewer’s game.
After high school, Clifton chose a career where he could continue working with kids. At one of his first jobs, he worked in a kindergarten classroom as an aide, where he recalls an African American student having difficulty and often appearing withdrawn. The teacher asked Clifton to spend time with him to try to help him so he could succeed in school and make friends with his peers. Clifton spent a lot of one-on-one time with the student and often had lunch with him. One day, this boy came to school crying and would not stop. Clifton took him aside to find out what was wrong. After some time, the boy revealed that his mother had beaten him for asking for food and showed Clifton wounds on his stomach. It’s a moment Clifton will never forget, and that day, he knew without a doubt that he was on this Earth to help people.
In 2005, at 40 years old, Clifton was enjoying his career of working with kids, mentoring, coaching basketball, and volunteering. However, he began feeling sick, experiencing headaches, blurry vision, and weak. Vera encouraged him to seek medical help, and Clifton went to the emergency room (ER), where he was diagnosed with pneumonia, severe hypertension, and kidney failure. He learned that his undiagnosed high blood pressure had caused his kidneys to fail, and he started his first dialysis treatment that day at the hospital.
His kidney failure diagnosis was terrifying for him and getting used to attending in-center hemodialysis treatment three times a week was difficult. He learned to surround himself with positive people and a support system he could lean on during tough days. A doctor told Clifton he would never get better, and those words motivated him to prove that doctor wrong. He knew he had more to
do in this life and was determined to get as healthy as he possibly could.
In July 2008, Clifton received a kidney transplant from a deceased donor. However, the transplant rejected in 2011 due to a case of pneumonia and a double lung infection. He was grateful for his time with the transplant as he felt he could resume a more “normal” life. One special memory Clifton recalls is a trip to Disney World with his daughter—something he wasn’t sure he’d be able to do or have the energy for while on dialysis.
Since losing the donor kidney, Clifton began to focus on living his best life on dialysis. He goes to all his dialysis sessions, meal plans, listens to his medical team, and asks questions about his healthcare.
Clifton also keeps plenty busy with working part-time in the two-year-old room at daycare, coaching basketball, mentoring, and volunteering at his church. He spends time with his mother, daughter, and extended family and expects his first grandchild in February. “I am not going to let kidney disease beat me. God is not finished with me yet; there’s still work to be done,” Clifton said. He feels rewarded for all his efforts when he sees someone he mentored in passing and they remember him, or receives an invitation to one of his students’ graduation parties or weddings. “That’s my million-dollar check.”
Recently, Clifton became an AAKP Ambassador and is pursuing his interest in mentoring new dialysis patients and dialysis patients struggling with attending their treatments and being engaged in their care. “It’s rough when you first start dialysis. I thought I was going to die,” Clifton said. “Sometimes it takes a stranger to help.” A continued goal for Clifton is to pay it forward for everyone who has helped guide and support him while growing up and starting dialysis.
Clifton wants fellow kidney warriors to know, “Your life does not end. It’s up to you. If you stay positive, motivated, and are engaged in your health and with your healthcare team, you can live a great life.”
Reach out to Clifton by email at: cliftonagee3@ gmail.com