Estep overcomes kidney transplant to operate successful business

By Greg Miller

Kidney transplant recipient Terry Estep has not allowed his physical problems to keep him from becoming a successful business owner.
   Estep, who along with Mike Johnson owns Milligan Auto Care, works 9-10 hours each day in the operation of the business.
   "I had my transplant when I was 43," Estep recalled. "I was diagnosed with polycystic kidneys when I was 38." He learned that the condition runs in his family and was placed on a diet that included no milk, cheese or ice cream.
   Polycystic kidneys, Estep says, "is a disease that is sort of like an abscessed tooth. It's like little holes in the kidney, and it just keeps spreading into (more) little holes...and sooner or later, it's just one big hole. It keeps spreading until it takes the whole kidney.
   "When they first found it, I had a kidney stone. When I went and had that checked, they said it was just a little spot, and that was about 1987. They said I had a little spot on my kidney, but it wasn't anything to worry about at that time."
   Eventually, Estep was placed on the transplant list. He was told by his doctor, Dr. Clifford Wiegand, that his kidneys were working pretty well. "My creatnin was going up, but it was still doing fair," Estep said. "He said, 'You may be on the transplant list for a year, five years, six years until you get a match.'" Estep, however, was on the transplant list for only three weeks.
   Estep received his new kidney in February of 1996. Five months later, he was back at work. "I got along real well," he said. "The kidney did great. It's still doing great. I've been real blessed. I had a problem with a little bit of the medicine, but they got that straightened out, and I've been working ever since."
   Estep has medicine-induced diabetes. "I didn't have that until after I had my transplant," remarked Estep, who takes insulin for the diabetes.
   "After I had my transplant, they told me, 'You can eat ice cream. You can drink milk. You can eat cheese,' stuff that I couldn't do for years. So, I pigged out on the ice cream. I was getting sort of light-headed when I was at work. I really didn't know what diabetes was. I had heard of it, but I had never thought about me having it." Results from blood tests showed that he was diabetic.
   "Sometimes I get tired and drug down a lot faster than I used to," remarked Estep, 51. "I don't seem to have the energy."
   Estep's wife, Anna, who works at the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library, says she feels her husband is "a walking miracle."
   Estep says his wife has been very supportive of him. "She's been great," he remarked.
   "If I hadn't gotten my transplant, chances are I would be on dialysis right now," Estep said.
   "A lot of times what really wears me out is if I have to lean over a truck for a long time or hold my arms up in the air for a long time, something that I have to do that takes a pretty good while to do," he said.
   Estep encourages other business owners who may be going through similar circumstances. "I feel that if I hadn't gone back to work, if I had just stayed on my disability or not gone back to work, I wouldn't be doing as good as I am right now," Estep said.
   He is thankful that he was able to return to work. "I could very well have not been able to go back to work and have all kinds of problems," he said. "I was blessed and I keep on going. Hopefully, the Lord will keep blessing me."
   The business performs a variety of jobs, including tune-ups, engine swaps, and brake repair. "We even do small-engine repair," Estep said.
   Milligan Auto Care, which opened last October, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information, call 926-3322.