WESTVILLE — Since a sudden illness last June that led to a hospital stay, kidney failure and a rare disease diagnosis, Brandy Dougherty has not retreated from the Westville community that she loves, and in return, it has rallied around her.
Longtime friend Connie Pruitt recalls Dougherty taking the time, despite her current health struggles, to attend Pruitt's son's wrestling meet earlier this school year.
"She's out and about watching him. She's not just staying in the house," Pruitt said, describing Dougherty's strength and selfless attitude in light of her circumstances. "She's so positive. It's amazing."
Pruitt has known Dougherty, 38, since their boys — who are now seniors at Westville High — played T-ball together at 4 years old.
"I just really honestly feel that her ray of sunshine has a purpose and for some reason it needs to be out there," said Pruitt, who is one of many students and parents connected with the Westville school district who have rallied around Dougherty, her husband, Louis, and their 19-year-old daughter, Aubrey, and 17-year-old son, Cyrus, to support them through her medical challenge that has her preparing for a possible kidney transplant.
If you walk through the front doors of Westville High, you'll see the glass doors and windows covered with green ribbons sold by student council members to raise awareness of kidney disease and to raise money for the Dougherty family for incidental medical expenses, such as constant trips to Indianapolis for appointments at Indiana University hospital.
"It's pretty overwhelming," said Brandy, talking about the outpouring of support from the Westville community on her way back Wednesday from one such medical appointment. "It's helped a ton. I don't feel worthy of it, that's for sure."
Cyrus plays on the baseball team, and those parents and players have really pitched in, organizing kickball and basketball tournaments last weekend to raise money, and another event has been planned by a larger group of people in the Westville community for today at the Westville American Legion.
Student council President Hunter Lange said she's known Brandy Dougherty for two years.
"She's a caring, amazing, and a wonderful person and mother," Lange said. "When I became student council president, the first thing I wanted to do was try to give back to her anyway I could."
In addition to the ribbons, the council also did a "hat day" to help raise additional money.
"It was amazing how much Westville High School and Junior High pitched in to help," Lange said. "I am grateful for the overwhelming support given from Westville, and I am beyond glad I got to help give back to someone who has given so much to the community along with her family and friends."
Dougherty, who's a Westville High graduate, said she's usually the one "out there" helping other people.
"It's weird being on the other end of it," she said. "It shows how strong our community is."
In June of last year, a cold suddenly turned into a hospital visit that landed Dougherty in the intensive care unit, and within three weeks, her kidneys had failed. Diagnosed with a rare form of Berger's — a disease that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin lodges in the kidneys — Dougherty is now on dialysis three days a week, but still goes to work each day at Walgreen's Accounting in Danville.
"It all happened pretty quickly," said Dougherty, whose husband and two other family members are being tested to possibly donate a kidney.
"Three potential donors, so hopefully one of them will be a match," she said.
With one transplanted kidney, she could quit dialysis if recovery goes well. Dougherty said she loves her dialysis team.
"But I hate going," said Dougherty, who has also received overwhelming support from Westville classmates she hasn't heard from in years, some even volunteering to be a donor if her family members aren't a match. "And that's where I don't really worry about myself and surgery. I'm more worried about the person who does donate."
Pruitt said that's Dougherty, very selfless.
"She worries about everybody else," she said. "I believe she has been put on this Earth to do something great, even if it's just bringing this community together for a great cause."