Norfolk firefighter gets gift of a second chance at life

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – In December, we shared the story of Wally Ching, a Norfolk firefighter who was fighting kidney disease and needed a living kidney donor. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, Ching has a new kidney and is now recovering.

One year ago, Ching learned he would need a living kidney donor if he ever wanted to get back to normal. As a man who helps people for a living, the first responder wasn’t initially eager to ask for help. But the donor has given Ching the gift of a second chance.

“It’s unbelievable right now,” said Wally Ching.

On Tuesday, Ching had kidney transplant surgery. But he says Monday is the first day it’s really hit him. Instead of being on dialysis, he was home. He said, “That I don’t have to do that anymore is unbelievable.”

The trade-off: Lots of medicine. Right now, Ching takes 27 pills per day.

“I’d rather do that then rely on having to go to a dialysis center for the rest of my life,” said Ching.

In mid-March, Ching was told he may have a possible match. That donor came from a pool of 72 people who all heard Ching’s story and registered to be tested.

The outreach effort was spearheaded by Kitty Signorelli, one of Wally’s friends. Her husband is also a Norfolk firefighter.

“He was kind of resistant to help,” said Signorelli. “I think we were all a little gut-wrenched initially when he told us. Typical Wally, very stalwart.”

But on Monday afternoon, Ching was cheerful — happy things will become a bit more normal. He said, “You never realize how much you miss drinking water until you’re limited to only 32 ounces a day.”

Ching also fought back tears as he reflected on his journey over the last year. He’s not planning on seeking out his donor, but says he’s humbled and grateful.

“I don’t think I can say thank you enough,” Ching said.

Ching also says he wants to be an advocate for living kidney donation, as well as someone people can go to if they have questions about kidney disease.

For more information on Ching’s fight, as well as how to donate, visit Wally’s Kidney Kampaign on Facebook.