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FARMINGTON — Joey DeYapp still vividly remembers the evening 18 years ago when he returned home from work to find his then-girlfriend on the floor clutching her side and complaining of stomach pains.

Since then, Tonya DeYapp — now Joey's wife — has been diagnosed with reflux nephropathy, kidney damage caused by urine flowing backward from the bladder into the kidneys.

Her sister, Nicole Longacre, has volunteered to donate a kidney, and the DeYapps hope doctors can complete the transplant early next year.

"We’re staying strong about it, and we’re doing what we can," Joey DeYapp said.

Now, as Tonya DeYapp prepares for the life-saving operation, her employer, Three Rivers Eatery and Brewhouse, has organized a fundraiser to pay for the expenses insurance does not cover, such as hotel stays in Albuquerque. Both Joey DeYapp and Longacre also work at Three Rivers.

On Saturday, the restaurant will host a $35 dinner fundraiser. The menu includes salade de laitue, butternut squash bisque, cassoulet and red velvet Napoleon.

All proceeds will go toward DeYapp's kidney transplant expenses.

This month, Three Rivers is also selling a special beer created on DeYapp's behalf. Called the Tonyarita, the beer is inspired by margaritas.

DeYapp, a server and manager at Three Rivers, has been preparing, at least mentally, for the kidney transplant for years. She was diagnosed at age 23 and will celebrate her 40th birthday on Monday.

"Tonya and I have been talking about this for years," said Kelly Foss, one of her colleagues at Three Rivers. "So she knew it was coming."

In an interview last week, DeYapp recalled going into the emergency room for an X-ray before she was diagnosed. That's when doctors said her kidneys were only functioning at 28 percent.

"I’ve been able to sustain that 28 percent until now," she said.

Another trip to the hospital in October revealed her kidney function had declined. Since then, she has spent nine hours each night hooked up to a dialysis machine.

The DeYapps initially planned to set up collection boxes around Farmington to raise money for the procedure, but Three Rivers instead offered to help raise the funds.

"We’re just a big happy family. Well, a dysfunctional family," Foss said.

He said the Three Rivers family steps up whenever employees are struggling. A few years ago, the restaurant hosted a fundraiser for an employee whose house burned down.

"You’ve got to take care of your family," Foss said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

If you go

What: "A Dinner for Tonya" fundraiser

When: 4 p.m. to close Saturday

Where: Three Rivers Restaurant, 101 E. Main St. in Farmington

Cost: $35 

More info: Go to threeriversbrewery.com

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