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Former Raven Lional Dalton Needs a Kidney

Former Raven Lional Dalton
Former Raven Lional Dalton

In 1999, an employee from the Ravens came to big-bellied defensive tackle Lional Dalton, nicknamed "Jelly Roll," and asked if there was an organization he'd like to support. They had different options he could choose from.

After learning about each organization, Dalton chose the Living Legacy Foundation in Maryland. He filmed a public service announcement for them, spreading the word about the importance of organ donation.

Turns out, more than 20 years later, that choice and that organization could save Dalton's life.

Dalton needs a kidney. He has been battling end-stage renal disease, that last stage of chronic kidney disease, for the past 17 months.

There's no telling exactly how much time he has left, but if the former Super Bowl XXXV winner doesn't get a kidney soon, time will run out in the not-so-distant future.

There are more than 107,000 people waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. The average wait for a kidney on the national deceased-donor waiting list is five years and an average of 17 people die per day waiting. So Dalton just keeps waiting, hoping for somebody to save his life.

"I have good days and bad days, but for the most part, more good – mentally," Dalton said.

Dalton's situation has drastically changed in the past few months. While moving into a new house and putting up a Wall of Fame, Dalton's wife, Tiffany, found a plaque the Living Legacy Foundation gave Dalton to thank him for his support. On the back was a business card.

Dalton called the number, and that started quite a magical chain of events. The Living Legacy Foundation pitched Dalton's story to "Good Morning America," which ran it in late April.

That story led to calls from Ravens fans to help. One woman planned to donate from her mother, but her mother passed away before the transplant, so she now wants to give her own kidney to Dalton in honor of her mother. They're still waiting to see if she's a match.

Others have stepped forward, too. Dalton said there are four or five people interested. With his type-O blood, it's harder to find a match, but Dalton is staying hopeful. A transplant from a living person can last 15-20 years, and would give Dalton, his wife and their four children a new lease on life.

"It's very emotional when I think about it," Dalton said. "A complete stranger, a Baltimore Ravens fan, wants to donate to me, but I can't even get one from a family member. The idea of some random fan wanting to help me, it's really emotional."

As explained in an feature story about Dalton, Dalton didn't know anything was wrong until after a New Year's Eve party with friends at the start of 2020. He awoke with shortness of breath and was rushed to the hospital with soaring blood pressure. That's when he learned that his kidneys were operating at about 20 percent effectiveness.

At first, he dealt with a lot of back pain from fluid caused by the hypertension. That wore at the blood vessels that went to his kidney. So Dalton researched some steps he could take and found that lowering food consumption and eating a mostly plant-based diet would help slow down the process of kidney failure.

This would be a challenge for Dalton, who was a run-stuffing defensive lineman for the Ravens. As a player, he stuffed 360 pounds into his 6-foot-1 frame. But through intermediate fasting and his diet change, Dalton has lost 120 pounds since April of 2020.

Sitting in dialysis at a clinic in Atlanta, where he goes three times a week for 4 ½ hours of treatment, Dalton looks like a much different man.

"I don't have those same pains when I eat," he said. "I feel better than most people in here. A lot of people in here are in really, really bad shape."

Dalton played four years in Baltimore after being undrafted out of Eastern Michigan. He then went on to play for Denver, Washington, Kansas City and Houston before retiring following the 2006 season.

Tiffany and Dalton spent eight months after his retirement traveling with their then 3-year-old daughter Skye around the world. That got cut short when Tiffany realized she was pregnant with their youngest daughter, Sade.

Dalton has written two books while undergoing dialysis. One is about the trips to eight countries in Southeast Africa, Asia, and China, which Dalton says changed his outlook on who we are as people and how unique different cultures and people can be. The other book is an ABC book on Skye's travels.

But Baltimore will always hold a special place in Dalton's heart. And now, it may hold the key to his kidneys too.

"When I think back on my life, a lot of firsts were in Baltimore," Dalton said. "I met my wife in Baltimore. I finally became financially stable in Baltimore. My son, my first born, was born in Baltimore. The first team that picked me up was Baltimore. I've got a lot of great memories from Baltimore. So the fact that someone from Baltimore reached out save me, it's like, wow. I've got a lot of support and love for Baltimore."

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