Teachers are a generous bunch — offering struggling students extra help after school and donating their time and resources to charities and their local communities. So, it’s not surprising that it can be a bit unsettling when teachers themselves need to reach out for help.
“Because a living kidney donor is really the best option for me, I really need to make people aware of that. It’s an unusual situation to be in,” says Brad Vernet.
Vernet is a seventh-grade science teacher at West Side Middle School, and he has Stage 4 kidney disease. After living with the disease for many years, his kidney function dropped sharply over the last year-and-a-half, and he needs to begin the process of finding a live donor.
Few kidneys are available, and the wait on the donor lists can be long. A kidney from a living donor lasts much longer than one that is harvested from a deceased person and is more likely to lead to a healthier long-term outcome for Vernet.
Vernet’s wife Katy is also a teacher in Groton. She teaches first grade at Claude Chester School, and they’re raising their two children in Mystic.
Vernet said the response from his colleagues has been great. “I’ve been getting emails and phone calls. Now that I’m seeing colleagues again as I go into school to set up my classroom, people have been very supportive. It can be pretty emotional.”
Vernet is a patient at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The living donor transplant screening is entirely confidential, so there’s no pressure on potential donors and Vernet and his family don’t get their hopes up prematurely.
Brad and Katy are asking that anyone interested in donating contact the coordinator at Bringham and Women’s. The other important thing colleagues and friends can do is get the word out.
“It’s a ripple in the pond thing,” Vernet said. “People can share the word via Facebook or email. When I was at the hospital for my evaluation a nurse told me that the two most recent donors were people who heard about the need for a kidney through Facebook. They weren’t even Facebook friends or acquaintances with the person who needed the kidney, but word got around.”
Brad and Katy have started a Facebook page to provide a place where those who are interested can get updates and provide support. You can find the page here.
For more information on possibly being a kidney donor for Brad Vernet, contact Kristen Pelletier, Brigham & Women’s Hospital’s living donor transplant coordinator, at 617-732-8683.