PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — To the Warrior football players in South Philadelphia, Joe Weissinger is the man who they’ve gone to when they need help, on the field with practice and off the field, with life lessons about grit, respect and discipline.
But a medical diagnosis now has Coach Joe asking for help.
“I don’t really like to talk about it,” he said.
If Weissinger had his way, he’d be anywhere else right now. He hates asking for help.
“Everything I do in my life, I want to do it all on my own,” he said.
These days, it’s not about what he likes or wants, it’s about what he needs – a kidney transplant.
“I came home from the Phillies game and it was a hot night and I just noticed that my leg – I was wearing shorts and sandals – and I noticed my feet and legs were very swollen,” Weissinger explained.
That was 2009.
Doctors diagnosed him with nephrotic syndrome, which medical officials describe as a kidney disorder that causes your body to excrete too much protein in your urine.
Weissinger started with over the counter medication, then in-home dialysis.
Start to finish, it’s about a five-hour process, five days a week. Weissinger says it’s like having a part-time job.
When he goes to his chair though, he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by pictures of his family. He says it’s team effort, and his diagnosis has been just as tough on them.
“Sometimes you get discouraged for a few minutes, and then you just pick it up and move on,” his wife Bridget said.
“Without her, this would never happen. She’s my rock,” Coach Joe said.
If Bridget is his rock, his 4-year-old son Joey tries to be his entertainment during dialysis.
Coach Joe also has another team behind him — the youth football team the Warriors in South Philadelphia.
And the coach insists on working with them despite his health.
“For him to be coaching for what is going on in his life is just amazing,” Warriors’ player Billy Cullen said.
Weissinger said, “Coaching football makes life normal for me. I’m sharing with them what somebody shared with me.”
But as much as he helps them, now Coach Joe is the one asking for help.
Several family members stepped up to donate a kidney but failed to pass the required health screening.
Adding to the challenge, his blood type is O positive, meaning he can donate to anyone but can only receive from others who are also O-type.
“I’m thinking about Joey,” he said. “I’m thinking about Aubrie. I’m thinking about our future. I’m thinking this isn’t good for our family and I need to ask for help. I need help now.”
For others struggling with a health condition, Joe Weissinger says don’t give up and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you are interested in helping the Weissinger family, contact Thomas Jefferson Hospital’s transplant center. Coach Joe also has a website.