Brad Vernet is our neighbor. He's a teacher, husband, father and friend. Brad lives in Mystic and teaches science at West Side Middle School in Groton. He has a big smile and heart to match. But Brad has Stage 5 kidney disease and he needs a transplant.
How can you help? For starters, how about bowling for Brad?
Bowling Bonanza at Spare Time in Groton on March 2 was created to benefit the Northeast Kidney Transplant Fund’s HelpHOPELive in honor of Brad Verney, to assist with some of his uninsured transplant-related expenses.
Brad Vernet looks fine.
And that's the thing about kidney disease. Looks can be deceiving.
Vernet, a Mystic resident who teaches seventh-grade science at West Side Middle School, has Stage 4 kidney disease. His doctors at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston have advised him that he needs a transplant, ideally within the next two years.
The 48-year-old was born with just one kidney, which is not particularly uncommon. And usually, folks can live just fine with one kidney instead of two.
"But somewhere along the line I got kidney disease," Vernet explained. He was diagnosed 15 years ago after some routine tests showed protein in his urine.
For more information on possibly being a kidney donor for Brad Vernet, contact Kristen Pelletier, Brigham and Women's Hospital's living donor transplant coordinator, at 617-732-8683.
"It progresses so slowly that you don't notice the effects for years," he said. "With Stage 1 or 2, some people can go the rest of their lives (with no problems). It's only in the last year and a half that my kidney has progressed faster."
His only real symptom is fatigue, he said. Otherwise, he feels fine, and his doctors want him to have the transplant while his health is good, so that he can have an easier recovery from the surgery.
So Vernet and his wife Katy, who teaches first-grade at Claude Chester School, are on a mission to find him a healthy kidney. They are looking for a living donor, rather than going on a national donor registry, for three reasons: The wait on the donor lists can be a minimum of five years; and a kidney from a living donor lasts twice as long (20 years) as one that is harvested from a deceased person; they are hoping to get a kidney soon enough so that Vernet does not need to go on dialysis.
Kidney donation does not require someone to be a blood relative or even a 'perfect' match. The Vernets have found three people so far who are potential donors, and none are a blood relation to Brad. His blood type is O-positive, but he said that with all the advances in anti-rejection medication, the donor could be a total stranger.
The process is entirely confidential, so the Vernets don't know from the hospital how they are doing in their search. They sent out a Facebook message and an email to Groton teachers seeking donors, but the hospital wont share any information with them unless an actual match is made. So they are continuing to spread the word in the hopes of bettering their chances of finding a donor.
It has been an upsetting three months for the family, which includes 16-year-old daughter Emmye and 12-year-old Martin, and Rowan, their 7-year-old Labrador retriever.
Kidney disease "progresses so slowly that in the back of your mind you hope you are someone who goes 70 or later with no problems," Vernet said. "The stage I'm at right now, I have 15 percent kidney function. It's a surreal situation, looking for a donor."