March is National Kidney Month, and Canton residents Jason and Meghan Brunette share their new life’s purpose as they prayerfully wait for a kidney transplant for Jason.
In 2011, Jason learned what he believed was a hernia from heavy lifting was, in fact, a symptom of the disease that took the life of his mother, aunt and grandmother. He was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a genetic disorder that causes fluid-filled cysts to grow in the kidneys.
PKD cysts can change the shape of kidneys, often making them much larger. It is a chronic disease that reduces kidney function and may lead to kidney failure.
In 90% of PKD cases, the person inherits the mutation from one affected parent. Jason, the youngest of five children, was the first to be diagnosed, until his twin brother, Josh, joined the fight several years later. However, Jason’s illness is more advanced.
Meghan is a registered nurse and knew what they needed to do to preserve her husband’s kidney function.
“Jason never drank alcohol or smoked, which is helpful, but he must adhere to a strict diet. He cannot have most of the foods he loves that are high in potassium and phosphorus, because they are hard for your kidneys to break down,” Meghan said.
In January 2021, Jason received an early-stage cancer diagnosis, which added to the young couple’s stress. “Thankfully, surgery was successful in removing the cancer, and no chemo was necessary. His kidneys could not have endured chemotherapy, and we are grateful to have dodged that bullet,” Meghan said.
“After COVID-19, I was offered a position with Lifelink of Georgia, an organ procurement organization that assists families with their loved ones who want to be organ donors. One of my managers put me in contact with a transplant coordinator at Piedmont Atlanta, to see if Jason would be a candidate for a donated kidney. The thorough evaluation determined that Jason’s kidney function was low enough to be a candidate. The stress from cancer left him with 19% kidney function,” Meghan said.
“Every 14 seconds in America, a new person is added to the list. There are over 100,000 people currently waiting for a kidney in the U.S., and 5,000 people a year die waiting for an organ. I wanted to do whatever I could to prevent my husband from being one of the 5,000 people,” Meghan said.
“I made the decision to start my evaluation process to be a living donor for Jason. I lost 25 pounds in three months to meet the necessary body mass index requirements to be a donor. I learned in January that I was approved, but I am sadly not a match for my husband. I have a rare blood type that will help someone who has probably been waiting a while for a lifesaving kidney. I will participate in the kidney swap program where I donate to a stranger, and a stranger that is a match for Jason will donate to him. As an advanced donor in honor of my husband, he will then be placed at the top of the living donor list. This program also ensures that, should I need a kidney during my lifetime, I will not have a long wait since I donated to help someone in the past,” she said.
“My passion is very personal, and it is my mission to educate others on all of the programs available to those who are in need of organ transplant and to those who may consider being a living donor. The transplant list gets longer every year, and we need more living donors to save lives.”
Jason, 37, and Meghan, 36, are facing many challenges. Due to his genetic disposition, they decided against starting a family, and are giving great purpose to their story as they advocate to shorten the lifesaving list for others. Meanwhile, Meghan will be donating a kidney this month; she will be out of work at least eight weeks. They are fundraising to help offset the loss of income and costs of deductibles, copays and medications.
“I am grateful that I can give life to someone who desperately needs my kidney, while also helping my husband,” Meghan said.
A gofundme account has been set up for this sweet couple (www.gofundme.com/f/help-support-jays-kidney-transplant). Or, you may contribute through Everyday Angels — 100% goes to the Brunette family.
To learn more about living donor programs, visit www.kidneyregistry.org.
– Everyday Angels is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit serving Cherokee County since 2000. To make a tax deductible donation, visit www.everydayangels.info to donate via Paypal, or send your donations to: Everyday Angels, PMB 380, 1025 Rose Creek Drive, Suite 620, Woodstock, GA 30189. One hundred percent of your funds will go to the family you specify. If you know of a special need in our community, email firstname.lastname@example.org.