Marty Mulcahy Editor BAY CITY – Brian Martindale, a Local 2353 union painter, in 2013 almost certainly saved the life of a 10-year-old girl who was in renal failure, by giving her one of his kidneys. Motivated to spread the word about the need for more kidney donors, last month Martindale wrapped up a personal campaign this year, driving to Chicago, Jackson, Miss., and Virginia to share his organ transplantation experience with local media, advocate for patients who need a kidney, and explain how potential donors could take steps to similarly help others. In 2020, more than 1,700 children received life-saving kidney transplants. There are more than 1,100 children on the national kidney transplant waiting list, and more than 4,000 children are on dialysis or being treated for kidney failure. Incredibly, the girl who now has one of Brian’s kidneys, Jessica Schwerin, lived only a few blocks from him in Bay City. Their chance of a match was onein-100,000. Since the procedure – both surgeries were, and continue to be a success – Martindale has spoken for Donate Life-Michigan, has acted as a peer mentor for the University of Michigan Transplant Center, and in addition to recruiting potential kidney donors, he is soliciting help anyone who might contribute to his travels. He heads up the nonprofit “Kidneys for Kids,” and a website with a Go Fund Me link and more information about donating. The address is www. kfork.org. Martindale said it”helps to feel a connection” to the person who needs a kidney, and for him, reading Jessica’s story in the local newspaper “pulled at his heart.”
The following is Brian’s story in his own words.
“In the fall of 2012, I read a story about a 10-year-old girl whose mother was holding up a hand-made sign on a prominent street corner in our town of Bay City, Michigan to plead to passersby to help her find a kidney donor for her daughter, Jessica, who was in Stage IV renal failure and in need of dialysis until she could find a donor with a kidney that matched.
“Her frantic act of maternal love and human desperation was a poignant example of the struggle that some parents go through when their children suffer from organ failure and are faced with limited options to survive. Jessica’s mother was willing to do anything she could to find a donor to save her daughter’s life.
“My heart was very moved by her daughter’s challenge and I wanted to help so I contacted the University of Michigan Transplant Center, where she was a patient, to get tested to determine if I would be a suitable donor. As it turned out, I was a perfect one-in-a-100,000 match. Then, on Jan. 11, 2013, I became a kidney donor for my now decade-long friend. Jessica Schwerin. who I later learned lived only four blocks from me in Bay City.
Imagine the odds of that.
“Both surgeries were a complete success. Then two days following our surgeries, I was able to visit Jessica. I was wheeled over to see her at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. The tiny, ghostly white little child that I had ridden with to the hospital just two days earlier was suddenly bright pink in color, and healthy looking. She wasn’t pale anymore, and she was smiling in her sleep. I was deeply touched, and after that overwhelming emotional experience, I somehow knew that I’d be very active in some capacity with living kidney donation efforts for the rest of my life.
“Days later I began reflecting on the shared journey that Jessica and I had just gone through. And while she was overjoyed by the fact that she was now going to be a healthy young girl and be able to live a normal life, for me it was something equally profound. I had not only saved a young girl’s life, but a living part of me now existed in the bodv of another human being. The thought of that was both exhilarating and overwhelming. I will literally be a part of her for the rest of her life.
“I can’t thank the remarkable medical transplant team at The University of Michigan Transplant Center enough for their life-saving skills. Their special talents helped bond two strangers together as life-long friends.
“I am a living example. I can still do the same things with one kidney as I did with two. Your life will not change. If you are a healthy adult with normal kidney function, and you give away or donate your spare kidney, your life will not change. The functions of your body will not change. You can save a life even if you don’t meet the person who receives it.” said Martindale.
He said 15 mothers in 15 different states have asked him to visit and do media events to advocate for kidney transplantation for their children, which is part of his plans for next year.
“Hopefully this article will get the transplantation issue in front out my fellow union members, and maybe some will be motivated to help me make this journey for kids,” Martindale said.
To get more information about donating visit the Kidneys for Kids website at www.kfork. org.
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