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Former Vols and Titans star Albert Haynesworth is experiencing kidney failure and is seeking a transplant.
Angela Gosnell, Knoxville News Sentinel

Albert Haynesworth is in good spirits and feeling “very optimistic” as he undergoes kidney treatment and seeks a donor, a family member told the Knoxville News Sentinel on Thursday.

Haynesworth, who played football for the Tennessee Vols and Tennessee Titans, announced on Instagram that after battling kidney disease for a few years, his kidneys failed on Sunday. Haynesworth’s post stated that he is “in dire need” of a kidney donation.

The family member, who asked not to be named, said Haynesworth had two rounds of dialysis on Monday and Tuesday, and his doctors suggested he post a call for a potential donor through social media.

Since Haynesworth’s post, Vanderbilt University Medical Center has received more than 1,000 “calls and offers for organ donation from well-wishers and individuals expressing interest,” chief communications officer John Howser said in a statement.

Haynesworth’s kidneys have not completely shut down, the family member said, and doctors hope the dialysis will help build them up.

“One certainty about Albert Haynesworth is that he is strong and steadfast in the face of adversity,” Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer said in a statement to the News Sentinel. Fulmer was Haynesworth’s coach at Tennessee.

“The challenge he’s facing now is perhaps his greatest. I know his VFL Family will provide tremendous support during this fight. We’re all praying that a donor — an ultimate ‘Volunteer’ — can be identified.”

Haynesworth, 38, played at Tennessee from 1999-01 before the Tennessee Titans selected him with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft. He had a 10-year NFL career, including seven seasons with the Titans. He also played for the Washington Redskins, New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He earned All-Pro honors twice and played in two Pro Bowls. He had 30.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and 347 tackles during his NFL career.

Haynesworth had previous health scare

This isn’t Haynesworth’s first serious health issue.

He told Nashville radio station 104.5 The Zone during an interview more than three years ago that he “almost died” from two brain aneurysms he suffered in 2014. Haynesworth said during that 2016 interview that he had high blood pressure.

The family member who spoke to the News Sentinel on Thursday said Haynesworth’s situation can spread awareness about the risks of high blood pressure.

“If he gets a kidney, I told him he should be the face of high blood pressure to get people aware about having high blood pressure and taking their medications and really be monitoring it,” the family member said.

Haynesworth’s Wednesday Instagram post included a photo that showed him lying in a medical bed while hooked up to machines.

“Well this hard for me to say but my doctors said I should reach out to my family, friends and fans,” Haynesworth’s message read. “Some of you may know I’ve been battling kidney disease for a few years now the time has come family, friends and fans I’m in dire need of a kidney mine have finally failed me on July 7 2019.

“It’s hard to believe from being a professional athlete to only 8 season in retirement that my body has taken another major blow. First with the brain (aneurysm) 3 seasons out of the NFL to now my kidneys failing me. But the bright side of this latest ordeal I can ask for help by asking for someone to generously donate a kidney.

“If you are interested in giving this precious gift please call Vanderbilt at 615-936-0695 and hit option 2. GOD BLESS thank you for your prayers and thanks for sharing this message. #VFL #TITANUP.”

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You can become a living kidney donor

To be considered a donor, individuals must meet specific physical stipulations and other requirements, including the ability to travel to and remain in the Nashville area for a period of time.

Those interested in learning more about kidney donation can visit Vanderbilt Transplant Center’s Living Donor Program website.

Interested in becoming a living donor?

You can register to be a donor by visiting the Donate Life America website: registerme.org

You also can consider becoming a living donor for relatives or close friends. For more information, visit: www.kidney.org/transplantation/livingdonors.

For help navigating the challenges of kidney disease, organ donation and transplantation, call 1-855-653-2273.

How to become an organ donor

Become a donor: Visit donatelife.net 

Why: Every 10 minutes a name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list. One organ donor can save eight lives. One tissue donor can restore up to 50 lives.

You can choose how you give life: You can decide to donate all your organs and tissues or specify which organs and tissues you want to donate.

The Tennessean’s Jessica Bliss contributed to this story.