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Holding onto Hope: Rockton man fighting for potential life saving surgery

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Joe Beard TSR Final

ROCKTON (WREX) — Joseph Beard is a 40-year-old man who, at first glance, seems like the average guy.

He lives in Rockton with his loving wife Hayley and their two kids Elsie and Molly.

However, a closer look shows Joe is far from average, in fact he's going through something only about one hundred people worldwide are going through.

"I went to my doctors and started to investigate what was going on. They looked through all kinds of stuff, put me through all kinds of tests," Beard said.

"They've tried everything from experimental drugs to treatments but nothing really seems to help."

Joe has STAT3 gain of function disease, a condition that has plagued him for the last five years and put him on dialysis for the last two.

STAT3 causes the immune system to become hyperactive, which has led to both his kidney and liver to begin shutting down.

"He's hooked up to the machine two hours four nights a week," Joseph's wife Hayley Beard said.

"We went through training to do it at home because we wanted him out of the center since he's immuno-deficiant and we want him to be as safe as possible."

For six months Joe's life became dialysis for bed and just praying to wake up the next for his family and do it all over again.

When all hope seemed lost, an opportunity presented itself.

Transplant.

"One of my doctors had suggested we look into transplant. It was a shock because we didn't ever think that was an option," Joseph Beard said.

After so much searching the Beards got in touch with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center where Joe was accepted as a transfer patient.

He is in need of a kidney, liver and bone marrow transplant.

It's a procedure that medical leaders at UPMC say may be a last resort for Joe.

"This combination of kidney, liver and bone marrow is probably not done yet anywhere," UPMC Blood and Marrow Transplant Divison Director Dr. Paul Szabolcs said.

"Even if we were to do it, we would need to get regulatory approval from our ethics board and the FDA as a single case protocol."

While conceptually Joe has been cleared for transplant, Dr. Szabolcs says its a huge risk.

"Sadly,we become referral many times to cases elsewhere that have gotten to a dead end or too sick to be transplanted," Dr. Szabolcs said.

"It's not without risk but it's still better than having absolutely zero hope."

To Dr. Szabolcs' point, this potential procedure has given Joe renewed hope.

As tough as the last few years have been, Joe is ready to do whatever he has to do if it means staying alive a little while longer for his family.

"I had a lot of dark days, but I thought about my family and what I have to do to keep going for them," Joseph Beard said.

"It gave me a lot of hope and I can do whatever it takes now. We're going to see this through and we're going to see what happens."

"We need to try it because he wants to be around for these two girls and watch them grow up and be the dad he wants to be," Hayley Beard said.

Joe is currently working on getting all of his surgeries cleared by insurance.

As of right now, the kidney and liver transplants have been given the green light, but the bone marrow transplant is hitting a snag.

While the Beard's continue to fight for clearance, the search for donors is also underway.

Joe is in need of living donors for his surgeries and he is currently compiling a list of potential matches for when he gets full clearance for all three transplants.

If you'd like to show your support for Joe and his family, or sign up to be a potential donor, you can find out more by going to livingdonorreg.upmc.com.

If you'd like to follow Joseph's journey on Facebook, click here.

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Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at eleake@wrex.com or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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