The Incorporated Village of Hempstead

Hempstead mayor on rumors: I'm not dying
May 21, 2011

Hempstead Mayor Vows to Fight Census TallyWayne Hall, the mayor of Hempstead Village, was in a local grocery store last week when a woman offered her condolences on his health. She thought he was fighting off cancer, which Hall welcomed as optimistic since others in the village thought he was close to death.

Hall, who had been tight-lipped on his health for months even as rumors swirled through local and political circles, does not have cancer. And, his doctor said in an interview, Hall is not dying.

The mayor has an irreversible kidney disease. And, during a recent hospital visit, he was surgically prepped for what he knows is likely inevitable: dialysis. Meanwhile, he's joined the seven- to eight-year wait for a new kidney in New York state by registering with a hospital.

"I need to dispel the rumors of my demise," Hall said in an interview, pushing back into a comfortable chair in his Village Hall office. "It's getting crazy out there and I need to dispel this stuff."

Hall said he has every intention of running for another term in 2013. And he's committed to seeing through redevelopment projects, from a downtown makeover to multiunit rental construction -- the first significant building project in the village for more than a decade.

He says it with conviction, utter and complete -- which is to be expected from a man, 64, who was told at age 26 that he had two bum kidneys and five years to live. "I was married when I was 31 years old," Hall said, "in the year I was supposed to die."

Hall has a degenerative kidney disease called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, which scars some of the capillaries that filter waste from the blood in the kidneys.

The condition, according to the National Kidney Foundation, affects children and adults; males slightly more frequently than females; and African-Americans more than other groups.

Hall's condition had been relatively stable for years, but recently began to worsen. The signs were subtle, Hall said, showing up in lab results as an increase of protein in his urine.

An avid runner, Hall said he is taking his medication, as he has for years, watching his diet and controlling his blood pressure. "I know I lasted this long because I follow my doctor's orders, take the medication and get my exercise," he said.

As mayor, he's worked to bring some of that tight focus on health to Hempstead. He founded a local 5K walk/run; and he's worked with a variety of groups to call attention to chronic health care concerns -- from diabetes to high blood pressure -- that require screening and sustained patient attention.

There was a time recently, Hall acknowledged, when he feared that his kidneys would force a choice between tending to his health or his constituents. His physician, Dr. Heino R. Anto, chief of nephrology at St. John's Episcopal hospital, told him he could stay on the job.

"He is not dying, that I would like to make absolutely clear," Anto said. "Despite his medical issues, he is doing very well and since he can work, he should by all means go ahead and do it and he can keep doing it, even if he goes on dialysis."

The doctor said he admired Hall's candor. "He's someone who wants to set a good example and that's valuable because there are diseases, like hypertension, that require screening because they don't show symptoms for years until it is too late."

So now, Hall works. And waits.

He did not ask his adult children to screen as potential kidney donors because doctors don't know whether his disease is hereditary; he did not ask his wife, because she herself has hypertension; and he did not ask the surviving four of his six older siblings because they are infirm. "I'm by myself on this one, but I can wait," he said.

And then he reminds a visitor that the annual Healthy Hempstead 5K walk/run is coming up, on June 26. "I'm going out there," he said, "and I'm running."