WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield High School volunteer baseball coach Mike Cappiello is in desperate need of a kidney donor.
The 28-year-old former WHS baseball player hit 46 doubles playing college ball for Plymouth State University in New Hampshire — the most in the school's history.
One day in April of 2012, during his senior year, he was off to another good start to the early season when he broke the record for doubles with his 46th and final one of his career. He thought he was going to be able to add to this total as a durable never-miss-a-game grinder of a player. He barely made it into second that day, huffing and puffing all the way to the base like he was running a marathon for the first time without training.
After the game, Cappiello couldn’t enjoy his favorite ritual of eating nachos with his teammates.
“I just didn’t feel right,” said Cappiello, who was the cleanup hitter and one of the team’s most durable players. “The next day I was in the emergency room.”
At the hospital, the physically fit Cappiello, who normally weighed 195, was at a staggering 235. The doctors immediately called for an array of blood tests and he was sent to Dartmouth Hospital, considered the best in the area. His parents met him at the hospital and he was administered further testing.
Eventually, the doctors determined with the help of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital that Cappiello had Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis, a kidney disease that was rare for someone so young. The disease that leaves the kidney unable to properly filter blood in the body. His collegiate baseball career was over.
Since 2015, Cappiello has undergone five surgeries for the access in his arm to facilitate the Hemodialysis that he undergoes three times a week, for three and a half hours each session. These grueling sessions begin at 5:30 a.m. and leave Cappiello spent, he said.
“Every day I come from dialysis I’m mentally and physically drained,” Cappiello said. “I pretty much eat breakfast and then take a one- to two-hour nap before I can even start my day.”
His days currently entail working on an MBA from Southern New Hampshire University with a focus on IT management. He also works for a CPA office in Union and, with baseball season beginning, he will be back at Westfield High School as a volunteer baseball coach. Through it all, he still enjoys the time he gets to be with his girlfriend and friends.
“I am very fortunate to have met a truly amazing girlfriend,” Cappiello said. “Michelle has been a blessing. She sees me for who I really am and understands everything that I go through.”
Physically, the surgeries have left his arm disfigured and scarred; he calls them “battle scars” from the fight he is waging. The surgeries have kept him from doing things he loves, including playing baseball, weightlifting, water skiing and snow skiing. He feels a buzzing sensation there that often keeps him up at night. Still, he maintains a strikingly positive disposition.
“When people look at me they don’t see my disease,” said Cappiello. “They just see a normal 28-year-old guy. This is what I want people to see. But dealing with this kidney disease has been tough; every day I try not to let it affect me.”
Hemo-dialysis treatment is essential for Cappiello, as it pulls excess water out of his system and filters the blood the way a normally functioning kidney would.
Cappiello is listed at three hospitals in the tri-state area for kidney donation, but the waiting time is between four and 10 years. Cappiello could receive a kidney from a deceased donor, but a living donor is preferred, because the organ would have a longer lifespan and because that person’s medical history would be known.
Finding a willing person and one who matches his blood type (O+) has been no easy task.
“My parents and other family members were unable to donate for various reasons, although they really wanted to,” Cappiello said. “This is a big ask but there is a big return and it would help bring my life back on track.”
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