PITTSBURGH -- As 2020 started, before anyone knew what the COVID-19 pandemic would become or of the civil unrest that would arise, former Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Lional "Jelly Roll" Dalton was starting a battle of his own.
Dalton, 46, spent four seasons with the Ravens, winning a Super Bowl with the team in 2001. He spent nine years in the NFL before retiring due to a spinal injury.
Those years in sports, and injuries that occurred, may have led him to his biggest challenge yet.
Around 3 a.m. on the morning of January 1, Dalton woke up with shortness of breath after a New Year's Eve party. He decided to visit the fire station across the street from his Atlanta, Georgia home, where they ran tests.
"My blood pressure was a stroke level and my oxygen level was really low," Dalton said. "So, we took an ambulance to the hospital. We were probably there for about two to three weeks, and they ended up telling me I had kidney disease."
Dalton believes the blows to his body and medication taken over time contributed to the disease.
His diagnosis, end-stage kidney disease, came with a long journey of treatment. Three times a week, he spends four hours and forty-five minutes receiving dialysis.
"I have to sit there for almost five hours," Dalton said. "I watch TV and sit and daydream or meditate on one day getting a kidney."
Dalton, along with his wife, Tiffany, their two daughters, six-year-old Skye and two-year-old Sade, and Dalton's other two children Laila, 18, and Amaud, 21, are working hard to increase awareness around his situation.
"We're doing kidney awareness and trying to remove a lot of the stigmas with organ donation," Dalton said. "I'm trying to get information out to the people, and hopefully with me, you know, spreading information and helping trying to inform people, I get a blessing."
Part of Dalton's more serious issues is his size. When he retired, the former defensive tackle stood 6'1, 315-pounds. His doctors recommended his weight should drop, and so, Dalton has taken extensive measures to better his diet and workout plans.
"I found some research from an Australian doctor who says that lowering your food consumption slows the deterioration process of the kidneys," Dalton explained. "So, I've pretty much been eating mostly once or twice a day small meals. And that's really helped. And I've lost probably 110 pounds since I started this diet."
Now, the challenge is waiting. Dalton is doing what he can to raise awareness and follow directions from his doctors. Until a donor becomes available, however, there's nothing more he can do.
"It's pretty much day to day," Dalton said on his mindset through the process. "You have good days and bad days. Try to follow, like my coach tells me, one play at a time. One day at a time. Try to stay in the now and work on what I can control."
To help, visit NewKidneyForJellyRoll.com. Dalton is O-negative, meaning he is a universal donor but can only receive O-negative or O-positive donations. You can also use the hashtag NewKidneyForJellyRoll on social media for more information.
The life expectancy for one with end-stage kidney disease is 5-10 years with dialysis treatment. Those who receive a donor kidney from a living donor tend to go 15-20 years before needing to be replaced.
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