As a son of one of the founders of the Mexican-American Fast-Pitch Softball Tournament, Manuel Romero has a long history with the game he can no longer play.
"I've played fast-pitch since I was about 15," Manuel Romero said. "It's been one of my hobbies for a real long time. It kind of kills me to go out there and watch."
Born in Nebraska and raised in Newton, he worked 25 years at Excel Industries in Hesston until health problems forced him to quit.
"I had to let my job go and man, that was a painful thing to do," Manuel Romero said. "...I figured if I wanted to see my grandkids grow older, I'd better give it up."
After quitting work, he hoped his health would improve.
"I've had open heart surgery, I've had eye surgery, I have diabetes really bad — I've kind of been through the wringer," Manuel Romero said.
In February of 2017, he started experiencing pain that seemed to defy explanation.
"We couldn't figure out what was going on — we went through numerous doctors, procedures, new medication changes and couldn't figure anything out," said Tanee Coleman, Manuel Romero's daughter.
Coleman has been the primary caregiver for her father, driving him to Wichita and Kansas City so that doctors could determine the cause of his pain. Recently, Manuel Romero was diagnosed with acute autoimmune hepatitis — a disease that causes the body's cells to attack the liver. Then he learned that his kidneys were failing.
"He's in constant pain and he's just tired of dealing with it," Coleman said. "Next month will be a year that we've been going through all this and trying to get better. It's taken a toll on him."
Doctors are working to stabilize Manuel Romero's kidneys so that they can perform a transplant of both the kidneys and the liver at the same time. His family hopes he will be able to be placed on the waiting list for organ transplants soon.
"They put kids over adults, but because he also needs a liver, they think he'll be prioritized higher," Coleman said.
Manuel Romero's diabetes has exacerbated his health problems.
"We're getting a lot of answers now, more than ever, but basically what they're saying is that his diabetes is the cause of this," said CC Romero, Manuel Romero's ex-wife.
Meanwhile, meeting expenses for traveling to Kansas City and medications have been a challenge.
"He's on limited income and they keep changing all his meds," Coleman said.
Manuel Romero even had to put off buying new medications until funds came in.
"When he was really getting sick, it was really bothering me to see him struggling, you know, trying to get all his meds and stuff and I was just like, 'God, I wish there was something I could do to help him,'" CC Romero said.
Both Manuel Romero's and CC Romero's families plan to hold a benefit dinner and silent auction starting at 1 p.m. Jan. 20 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, 415 S. Ash St. The dinner includes pork chile, beans, rice, drink and dessert. Small plates are $6 and large plates are $9. Silent auction items include an autographed basketball and jersey from Charlotte Hornets player Kemba Walker, gift certificates and a tool set from Sears.
"I'm glad I have two great families to help me out," Manuel Romero said.
Manuel Romero said he plans to be at the dinner to greet friends and family — and probably talk a little softball.
"I have a few friends that are coming that I plan to see that I haven't seen in a long time," Manuel Romero said.
Donations to Manuel Romero's medical expenses can be made to "Ron Romero Fundraiser" at Heartland Credit Union.
To pre-order pork chile burritos by the dozen for $36 (which can be picked up Friday evening or Saturday afternoon) or donate an item for the silent auction, call Coleman at 316-284-1321 or CC Romero at 316-249-8086.