‘Wally’s Kidney Kampaign’: Community rallies behind firefighter

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Wally Ching has been a first responder in Hampton Roads for more than 30 years. He’s seen his fair share of people who are in trouble or are sick and he’s always been there to help. But now, the tables have turned, and Ching is in a spot he never thought he would be in: needing a kidney.

“You see everything happening to everybody else, but you don’t think it happens to you until it happens to you. And then you have to figure out how you’re going to deal with it,” said Ching.

He’s been a Norfolk firefighter for 17 years. Now, facing kidney disease, he’s working through this new reality.

He asked, “How is this going to affect my career? How is it going to affect my family? What am I going to do?”

Back in May, Ching was getting tested as part of his annual firefighters physical. Doctors realized his blood chemistry was off and after a number of tests, they diagnosed him with kidney disease.

The father of two says he was shocked.

“How can this be happening to me? I’m not that guy, or I’m not that person,” he said.

Ching says his kidneys are operating at about 15 percent of their normal capacity. He feels healthy, but he has to use dialysis three times per week. His best chance of long-term survival and getting back to normal requires a living kidney donation. That’s why his family at the Norfolk Fire Department created “Wally’s Kidney Kampaign.”

“We want to help our brother Wally out. And we want to help any of our brothers and sisters who are in need,” said Lawrence Brown, President of Norfolk Professional Firefighters.

The social media campaign has led to 20 people volunteer to donate their kidneys. Doctors are in the process of testing those volunteers to see if they are a match for Ching — a man well-liked by his community.

Battalion Chief Julian Williamson, who was trained by Ching, said, “He can be funny, he’s kind of a private person, but he’s a super nice guy.”

Ching says the support has been overwhelming. While he waits for a match, he is still putting others before himself.

“If nothing else, maybe this will spark somebody to think about this, not for me, for somebody else,” Ching said.

The firefighters told 10 On Your Side that they feel, as first responders, that their job is to help the community and also educate people. They hope this campaign will do that.

To learn more, and for information on how to help, visit their Facebook page.