Guitarist Eddie Z battling kidney failure, still playing and - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Guitarist Eddie Z battling kidney failure, still playing and raising awareness

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Eddie Z doesn't play music for a band with a national label. Nonetheless, people come to hear the lead guitarist and the group "Charity Case."

"We're the biggest draw musically in the Carolinas" says Eddie Z.

Now the 47 year old guitarist, who also owns a music studio in Charlotte, is hoping his name will help boost a cause.

"When I found out how many people didn't know about dialysis or kidney failure, it became a purpose. I gotta go out and spread the word" Eddie Z says.

In January 2012, doctors told Eddie his kidneys were failing. He had about 15-to-20 years to live.

Eddie says six months later the news was worse. He had to start dialysis immediately.

"When someone tells you your kidneys are done and your whole life will change tomorrow, I literally said to the doctor - what if I don't start dialysis - he said you'll be dead in 8 days" Eddie recalls.

But for 12 years his life was music, and music was the band Charity Case - started because of the Ace and TJ Radio Show.

Eddie Z says the "goal of the band is to raise money for terminally ill and chronically handicap children."

He says over the years Charity Case played every four to six weeks, about 35-to-40 times a year.

Music and dialysis would seem to clash.

"I can't not play" says Eddie Z. "This disease will not take away my life. I will not live to do dialysis. I will do dialysis to live."

For almost a year and half, he rocked on stage but not many people knew about his health crisis.

"I played two shows with a chest catheter hanging out of my heart - scared out of my mind - but too stubborn to not do the shows" Eddie says.

Dialysis three times a week is torture.

"I have a space in my leg where they stick 2 needles - one in, one out - that are an inch and a quarter long, and thick as finishing nails. There's a lot of anxiety the night before. I'm anxious about how bad is it gonna hurt tomorrow" and he says the pain never gets better. "They take my blood out of me, run it through a machine, and they put it back. And they pull the needles out. And I bleed. If that's not barbaric, I don't know what it is."

Still he kept it secret.

"I just wasn't ready to talk about it. I wasn't ready to. Before I went public, I wanted to make sure I could handle it - like I could talk to people about it and not be a mess" he says.

He finally decided to open up because he says "I've got a platform here where I can go educate people. If I can teach people about this disease and keep one person out of a dialysis machine - then it was worth it."

Eddie Z created a web site, with information about kidney donation.

"I'm looking for a kidney for myself and a whole bunch other people that need a kidney transplant" he says.

But what if someone else gets kidney and he doesn't? 

Eddie says he'll be "thrilled. Absolutely thrilled. If I can help someone else get off this machine - this was meant to be." 

Dialysis has given deeper meaning to music, that for Eddie Z, was already "a place to escape."

He says playing to raise money for dying children resonates with him - even more.

"It's special and I don't take it for granted" he says. "I've played thousands of gigs in my life and now every time I step on stage - it could be my last time on stage so I gotta make the most of it."

Which is why he's hoping his name will boost awareness about kidney donation.

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