From his demeanor, you would have never known that 34-year-old Nahgi was suffering from kidney failure. Doctors were unsure if his poor kidney function led to high blood pressure or vice versa, but they were sure of one thing – he was in desperate need of a life-saving kidney transplant.
“He was full of life and always happy, even throughout his entire health ordeal,” Nahgi’s mother, Vanessa, said. “Kidney disease ravaged his body, but he never complained and was very optimistic that everything was going to fall in line.”
Nahgi went to Dialysis Center of Dayton every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for four hours each time. Enduring more than seven years of dialysis took its toll on Nahgi’s body. He was extremely tired, and walking became a struggle, so he got a wheelchair. He was too sick to continue his education at The Ohio State University, so he moved back home to Dayton. Despite all of those hardships, Nahgi still maintained a positive, optimistic attitude. After each trip to dialysis, he would go home and rest up for a big night of riding up and down the aisles at Wal-Mart!
“I could tell when he was physically feeling horrible, but whenever I would ask him how he felt, he would say, ‘Fantastic!’” Vanessa said. “It didn’t matter who asked him – he would always say he felt great.”
He always made it a point to look good, too. His perfectly groomed dreadlocks, bright-colored bowties, sharp suits and snazzy shoes hid his illness on the outside.
“He was a fancy dresser. He loved his clothes. Oh, it drove us crazy!” Vanessa laughed. “He said, ‘Mom, I’m sick, I have kidney disease, but I have to look well. I don’t want to look as bad as what I’m going through.’”
Nahgi knew from a young age that he wanted to put his good looks and talent to use on television as a newscaster.
“As a kid, he would always sign off and say, ‘Goodnight, Mom, this is Nahgi L. Hollins reporting!’” Vanessa said. “He was hilarious and could make you laugh at the drop of a hat.”
That aspiration didn’t stop when he was wheelchair bound. He was then determined to be the first newscaster in a wheelchair, Vanessa said.
Nahgi’s other passion was music. His melodious voice was first discovered at Colonel White High School, where he was the lead in the Wizard of Oz. He went on to serve as choir director for the African American Voices Gospel Choir at The Ohio State University.
“Nahgi was a perfectionist, and if something did not sound up to his expectations, he would show it on his face. At any given moment, one could hear Nahgi loudly saying ‘Ummmm, I need more vibratooooooooo,” or “Get your rock together – this is not your Grandmother’s choir!” said Herbert Smith II, the alumni chair of the African American Voices Gospel Choir. “He made choir rehearsals, ministry and singing such a great experience under his musical leadership.”
The many people whose lives he touched were deeply saddened when Nahgi’s kidney disease took him from this earth on September 28, 2013.
“His life was a constant reminder of the passage found in Psalm 34:1, which says ‘I will bless the Lord at all times and His praise shall continually be in my mouth.’ Through his suffering, Nahgi never stopped praising the Lord, and for this reason, God inhaled the life of Nahgi so that he could rest and suffer no more,” Herbert said.
But after Nahgi’s death, his legacy was just beginning.
Nahgi was determined to spread the word about the importance of organ and tissue donation in the African American community. He created the Nahgi L. Hollins Kidney Foundation in 2011 with the mission of doing just that. Every November, the foundation puts on a concert and honors someone waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant. The foundation has both educational and financial components, as it assists those waiting for kidney transplants with the cost of extended hospital stays, dialysis, medications and more.
“He loved life, he loved the Lord, he believed he was going to be healed, and in the end, he was,” Vanessa said. “He was a special young man, and I’m going to keep his legacy alive.”