By Matt de Simone
A local Botetourt resident needs a new kidney and wants the community to spread the word.
Larry Journell, the former principal of James River High School from 1987 to 2003, suffered a heart attack last year. As doctors attempted to find the issue which caused the cardiac event, they performed an angioplasty – a procedure used to open blocked arteries by injecting a dye that runs through the body to help doctors identify any problems via x-ray. The doctors used numerous methods to analyze the heart problem.
“They couldn’t get it figured out,” Journell said in a recent interview. “My kidneys started malfunctioning because of that dye. I never had kidney pain (before). They thought it may come back through dialysis, but it has not.”
The dye used during angioplasty can sometimes cause kidney damage, especially in people who already have kidney problems. Journell allowed the doctors to run the dye through his body three times before the doctors identified the issue in his arteries. This procedure damaged Journell’s kidneys to the point that he now needs a donor.
Journell grew up in the Hollins area, graduating from Northside High School in 1966. He was a part of the first class in the school from grades 8 to 12 (this was before there was a Northside Junior High School, now Middle School).
In 1968, the United States Army drafted Journell following the capture of the USS Pueblo by North Korean patrol boats on the Korean coast. According to Journell, he “vacationed” in Vietnam for a year as an Airborne Senior Specialist working from an OV-1 Mohawk surveillance aircraft.
The two-person plane performed three functions: photo, radar, and infrared surveillance. Journell and the other pilot flew low-altitude missions. The OV-1 had turboprop engines, meaning enemies couldn’t hear the plane until it was nearly on top of them. Journell logged 450-500 flight hours aboard the OV-1.
Journell took advantage of an education paid for by his time in the service upon returning to the states. He started out enrolling at Virginia Western Community College. Next, Journell ended up in Harrisonburg studying at Madison College (now known as James Madison University), where he earned a degree in Social Studies.
In 1973, nearly fresh out of college, Journell started teaching Social Studies at Lord Botetourt High School. He would teach there for the next 11 years.
“I finished (college), and that next fall, I started teaching at Lord Botetourt,” Journell explained. “Jobs were hard to get back then, so I started working with a neighbor and friend driving nails. He was a contractor. I worked for him all summer. I didn’t think I would get a teaching job, and at the last minute, they called me.”
In 1978, Journell began to work on his Administrative Degree at the University of Virginia, graduating from the program in 1983. He also served as Athletic Director for his last three years at Lord Botetourt.
In 1984, Journell became the assistant principal and athletic director at James River High School. Three years later, Journell became principal, where he would remain until retirement in 2003.
Journell lives on his farm with his wife, Genevieve, and their animals: a blue heeler named Thunder and a cat named Effie. Genevieve is the owner of Catrina Fashions located in Troutville, designing wedding dresses for brides-to-be. Journell and his wife have been married since 1994. They currently live on a farm raising cattle just off the Blue Ridge Turnpike.
Journell built their house in 1984. He explained that, back then, to get WSET on the television, he had to step outside, climb a ladder, and adjust an antenna. One night while climbing the ladder to make a needed adjustment, Journell fell and hit his head on a brick lying below his climb.
The fall resulted in 40 years of bad headaches. Doctors prescribed Journell with Lyrica after surgeries and multiple medications, which is generally used to treat diabetic pain. He took Lyrica for a few years. During that time, Journell gained a lot of weight, causing chest pains. Journell discovered he had clogged arteries but no damage to his heart.
Journell then had the angioplasty procedures leading to the eventual damage to his kidneys. He saw doctors at the University of Virginia, and they put him on a list of deceased kidney donors. However, the doctors explained that finding a kidney from a living donor would speed up the process. Although Journell has an O+ blood type, the living donor’s blood type doesn’t have to match.
Today, Journell goes to dialysis treatments every other day until he can find a donor. If someone chooses to be a donor, please contact Larry Journell at 540-992-5456 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.