1. Archive

Through the rough

Golf is a sport of conversation, frustration and relaxation. No watches, no worries _ except for hitting the little white ball really straight and far.

Golf is a release from everything David Warner has to worry about these days. On the course, the 16-year-old can concentrate only on his game, which he plays well enough to be on the Clearwater High School varsity golf team. He scored a 78 in last week's districts, allowing him to qualify for the upcoming sectionals. That's quite an accomplishment considering what he's been through in the past year.

The high school sophomore and honors student is suffering from a degenerative kidney disease called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, or FSGS. It involves patchy scarring of the filtering units in the kidneys, often causing them to shut down. About two kids in a million get it each year.

"Right from Day 1, he has handled this very mature," said David's father, also named David Warner, 41, of Clearwater. "He hasn't really missed a step."

Day 1 was Sept. 9, 2002. That's when doctors at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg told the Warner family about the disease that will eventually mean a kidney transplant. Doctors prescribed medication, but Little David, as his family calls him, went rapidly downhill.

"It was a huge shock, because the speed of his kidney function (decline) was rapid," said Dr. Sharon Perlman, one of David's doctors. "He has really accepted it with a remarkable sense of maturity."

Perlman said one of Little David's biggest worries was how the disease and treatment would affect his golf game. In late August, David had to begin continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis, or CAPD. Using bags, he has to transfer fluids into and out of his system at four-hour intervals. Long rounds on the course take their toll on his body.

"The days I have 18-hole matches, it messes up my bag transfers," the younger David said.

The CAPD process takes about 20 minutes. Since he can't take a break that long during his game, he has to do his dialysis right before he tees off, and right after he sinks his putt on the 18th.

"It doesn't give me very much time to do anything," he said.

Not only has the disease drained some of David's energy, it has also depleted the family's savings. The family has insurance, but the policy requires payment for medications up front. For example, one medication alone costs $500 a month.

"We're all tapped out," said David's mom, Darla, 40. Darla recently lost her job when the therapeutic preschool she worked for closed. David's father works as a technician for J.D. Smith Termite & Pest Control.

The family's credit cards may be maxed out, but their friends aren't.

Karen Livernois and Collette Moyer have a plan. It's a Dec. 6 golf tournament, David Warner's Kidneys for Life Golf Benefit.

"It feels like you're doing something for them," Moyer, 37, of Clearwater said. "I can't just sit back and watch them."

The entry fee for the event at Clearwater Executive Golf Course is $60 per person and $240 per foursome. All of the money goes to pay the medical bills. Golfers can win prizes local companies are donating.

"One thing after another has happened, and one family can only take so much," Livernois, 41, of Largo said. She hopes the tournament raises at least $10,000. "Obviously, I'd like it to be bigger than that."

The Warner family is not involved in the tournament planning.

All David "needs to do is show up and golf and have a good time," Livernois said. He can even win his own tournament.

Despite the disease, the dialysis, and the family's money problems, Little David is keeping a positive attitude.

The disease "is just something in my life now I have to deal with," he said.

"I didn't want it to happen, but it did, and I have to deal with it."

To help

David Warner's Kidneys for Life Golf Benefit is scheduled for 1 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Clearwater Executive Golf Course. Cost is $60 per person, $240 per foursome. For more information call Karen Livernois at (727) 531-3941 or Collette Moyer at (727) 530-3308.