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Donating a Kidney Was An Easy Decision for Peggy Bolster

Behavioral Health Nurse Helps A Stranger In Need

Ask most people to describe a hero, and it’s likely a cape and mask may be part of the discussion - not comfortable corduroys and a long sleeved cotton shirt.  But that’s what Peggy Bolster, RN wears most days when she comes to work as a Clinical Operations Supervisor on the Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit.   Bolster rejects the idea that she’s hero despite having donated a kidney to a complete stranger a little over a year ago.

To Peggy it seems, giving of yourself is what we are here for.   “I had a spare kidney. Why wouldn’t I give it to someone?” she asked.

The Behavioral Health nurse’s journey to becoming an organ donor began six years ago  after learning her son’s classmate needed a kidney. Peggy stepped forward and began testing with the Transplant Surgery Program at the University of Vermont Medical Center – then known as Fletcher Allen Health Care.

It was in the midst of the testing process that the classmate found a match from another source. “So okay then, there is no need to continue,” Peggy explained.

A few years later, Peggy learned that yet another acquaintance was in need of a kidney transplant and once again, she offered to help.  Unfortunately she was not a match but Peggy was committed to helping someone in need.  She and her acquaintance decided to participate in the National Kidney Registry together in the hope of starting a chain or a paired exchange.   A kidney paired exchange consists of two or more donor/recipient pairs who are not compatible with each other. It allows transplants to occur between incompatible donor pairs in a variety of unique ways and expands the options for living donations. 

Peggy’s intended recipient, in the meantime, had found a donor and received a successful transplant.  The Medical Center’s transplant coordinator, sensing her disappointment, invited Peggy to give to someone on their waiting list.  “Within days, a match was found and surgery scheduled,”  Peggy explained.

On February 22, 2017, an 8 hour surgery was performed in which her “perfect” kidney was removed and placed into the recipient.  “I asked the OR team to take a photo of the kidney as a keepsake,” she said with a shrug.  

Peggy calls her post op recovery “relatively uneventful” except for some now humorous reactions to the pain medications and some impressive fluid retention. She returned to work in April.  “The whole process was so natural. The team was so nurturing and I received great care there (University of Vermont Medical Center).

In June, Peggy received an email from the transplant coordinator.  “The recipient had expressed an interest in meeting with me. I have to admit I was nervous,” she said. 

The recipient is a Vermont woman who had been dialysis for 5 and half years.  “I have to admit I have no concept of what that must have been like for her.” They met on July 5.

“Her husband kept calling me a hero,” she said. “But I did it because it was a meaningful way to change someone’s life. It was tangible.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

 

To learn more about the becoming an organ donor visit:  www.organdonor.gov