Sheriff's employee Ayers in coma
by Wes Mayer
A longtime employee of the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office who was diagnosed with a serious disease last year took a turn for the worse Monday and remains in a coma.
Donald Ayers, a lieutenant with the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office, is now at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital in a hepatic coma – also called hepatic encephalopathy – due to the high levels of ammonia toxins that are circulating in his body. According to Ayers’ daughter, Tonya, doctors told the family the hepatic coma is a sign of the final stage of liver failure, which means the liver can no longer filter any toxins, and the toxins are impacting his brain, nervous system and kidneys. Ayers may also be suffering from an unconfirmed infection, and he has a low-grade fever.
Because of this, on Monday, the doctors estimated Ayers may only have one more week to live. Tonya Ayers said the only good news doctors have been able to tell the family is that, in the hepatic coma, Ayers is experiencing no pain. However, the family cannot communicate with him. The family is now seeking hospice care for Ayers to make his last days as peaceful and painless as possible.
Ayers’ medical issues are very similar to sclerosis of the liver, which is a disease often obtained through alcohol abuse, but Ayers never drank, Tonya said. Instead, Ayers was unfortunate to acquire his disease, hemochromatosis, through family genes. Both Ayers’ mother and father may have carried the genes, and, according to various websites, hemochromatosis is the most common form of iron overload disease, and it is the most common genetic disease for Caucasians.
Ayers has served the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office for more than 27 years, said Sheriff Mike Yeager. Ayers started out in the patrol unit, and he climbed his way up to lieutenant in the court services department. Yeager said Ayers has always been a good employee, and the sheriff’s office has been hoping and praying he could overcome his issues.
Tonya Ayers said her father was diagnosed with the disease last year, but doctors at Piedmont Newnan Hospital were not able to figure out exactly what it was. Doctors in Atlanta were later able to determine Ayers’ liver was failing, and he would eventually need a transplant, but at the beginning of this year, his condition got worse.
Doctors placed Ayers on the liver transplant list, but in order for the surgery to go forward, Ayers would have to be able to go home, take medicine for his liver and rest for two weeks without any stress, Tonya said. Every time Ayers attempted this, though, something would happen, and he would forget to take one or more doses of his medicine. This would cause the ammonia toxins building up in his body to get one step ahead of Ayers, and he would have to go back to the hospital.
This continued until two weekends ago, when doctors removed Ayers from the transplant list. According to Tonya, doctors began to think Ayers could not survive the transplant surgery, which would last a minimum of six hours, or the long recovery process, which the family learned was twice as difficult as the surgery. At that point, Ayers could not keep food down, so doctors had to input a feeding tube.
Ayers’ condition continued to worsen until Monday, when he went into the hepatic coma.
Ayers’ family has set up numerous fundraisers for Donald asking for assistance with all the medical expenses. Three online fundraisers may be found at: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/hopefordonald/journal/view/id/53cdbd62a589b4f67cb40fa8, http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/hope-for-donald/204330 and http://www.gofundme.com/b10k14. On the gofundme page, 15 people have donated $1,280 to Hope for Donald.
Other fundraisers are being held for the family, including a golf tournament at the Summer Grove golf course on Sept. 5 that is being organized by Lt. Mark Cooper and Sgt. Patricia Ayers, Ayers’ ex-wife.
In her most recent update on the fundraiser sites, Tonya wrote, “I want to thank each and every one of you for anything and everything that you have done and will do for me and my family. I could never express my thankfulness towards the hope that you have all brought to me. Please, continue to keep us all in your thoughts and prayers.”