Firefighters hold fundraiser after FF's son, 5, develops kidney disorder

Members of the Lexington Fire Department and their families gathered to support Firefighter Joe Sexton and his son, John, who currently spends 10 hours each night on dialysis for renal disease


Karla Ward
Lexington Herald-Leader

Lexington firefighters served up 50 pounds of bacon, 15 pounds of sausage and hundreds of pancakes Saturday morning at a fundraiser to support one of their own.

John Scott Sexton, the 5-year-old son of firefighter Joe Sexton and his wife, Katie Sexton, was diagnosed with a kidney disorder several months ago that is expected to have severe consequences for his health for the rest of his life.

Members of the Lexington Fire Department and their families rallied around with a pancake breakfast and silent auction to raise money to help the Sextons with medical bills and other expenses.

"The nice thing about being on the fire department, everybody being a family, ... everybody shows up" when someone is in need, said Chris MacFarlane, who was cooking up all that meat at the Lexington Professional Firefighters' union hall Saturday morning.

"Firefighters have big hearts," added Tara Davis, whose husband, firefighter Jordan Davis, was manning the griddle.

Katie Sexton said John Scott Sexton was a healthy, energetic little boy until earlier this winter, when he developed an infection from the O157 strain of E. coli. As a result, he suffered kidney damage from hemolytic uremic syndrome.

"We went from a perfectly healthy child to a kid that has end stage renal disease," she said. "There is no cure for renal disease."

She said John Scott spent a total of six weeks in the hospital, and for a while the family was traveling to Cincinnati Children's Hospital three times a week for hemodialysis.

Now, Sexton said, he's doing dialysis at home, hooked up to a machine for 10 hours each night.

"He's still sick, but he has good days," she said.

Eventually, she said, John Scott will need a kidney transplant.

He also has developed other medical complications, including high blood pressure and anemia, because of the kidney disease.

"Our lives changed in an instant," Sexton said.

The family does not know how John Scott became infected with E. coli. None of the rest of the family became ill.

"We've just got to move forward from where we are," she said.

That's where her friend Missy Stipp comes in.

They've been friends since elementary school. Both are school nurses working in Madison County and both are married to Lexington firefighters.

Stipp, along with fellow fire wives Leah MacFarland and Emily Wells, helped organize the silent auction and breakfast to help ease the family's burden. She said the turnout Saturday was better than expected.

"It's been a constant support," Stipp said. "Even the retired firefighters have been here."

Saturday's pancake breakfast was also a reunion of sorts, since it was the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic that firefighters and their families had gathered for a get-together.

"Everybody's just happy to see people," Sexton said. "It's been over a year."

She said functions like the breakfast have also reminded her and her husband that "we're not in this alone, and that's really helped us."

A Venmo account, katie-sexton86, has also been set up for donations.

Brooke Riggs, who is part of the current paramedic class, came out to support the breakfast and said Joe Sexton has been a great supporter of the class.

"He comes on his days off," Riggs said. "He's always there to help us. He's a great guy."

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(c)2021 the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.) 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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