Teacher Discovers Toddler's Father Is Ill, Doesn't Hesitate To Save His Life

May 09, 2019 by apost team

There are currently over 100,000 people on the national transplant waiting list in the U.S. After years of living with a serious kidney disease, Darreld Petersen’s condition got so severe that he was placed on that list in 2017. But doctors said that it could take years before the father, then 34 years old, received a suitable kidney.

Petersen didn’t have that long. In January 2017, he went to the ER, where he went on dialysis after learning that his kidneys were failing.

"It wasn't until I ended up going to the ER and my doctor, the next day during a follow up ... she noticed that my hemoglobin count was extremely low," Petersen told ABC News in 2017. "They did a biopsy that showed 20 percent (kidney) function."

In the U.S., around 17 people die daily waiting for a transplant, and every 9 minutes someone is added to the waiting list. At just 34, Petersen might have been one of those many patients who didn’t make it had it not been for Nancy Bleuer.

Bleuer, who works at Washington Charlie Brown Preschool & Childcare in Mason City, Iowa, heard that Petersen needed a kidney since she was his son Camden’s preschool teacher. She decided to get tested to see if she was a match — and she was.

"I was really excited about it," Bleuer told ABC News. "I was ecstatic. I don't know what I would've done for closure if I wasn't (a match)."

In June 2017, Bleuer and Petersen went under the knife at the University of Iowa Hospital. It was a procedure that saved Petersen’s life. 

"I had a co-worker who, years ago, had donated a kidney to someone in her church," Bleuer told the University of Iowa Hospital after the surgery. "It was an important part of her life's journey, and that was inspirational to me. I'd wondered how I would respond if such an opportunity to help someone else came up. When I heard about Darreld and Camden's situation, it just felt like the right thing to do."

In 2010, doctors diagnosed Petersen with IgA nephropathy, aka Berger's disease. The disease causes too many antibodies to build up in the kidneys, which leads to inflammation and tissue damage, according to the University of Iowa Hospital.

However, it wasn’t until late 2016 that Petersen’s disease advanced, causing full kidney failure.

"I had friends and family come forward who wanted to donate, but these didn't work out, for medical reasons or other reasons," Petersen told the University of Iowa Hospital. "Then Miss Nancy approached me."

At first, Petersen was reluctant — Bleuer said that he “looked stunned at first” — but then he hugged the preschool teacher and agreed.

"She was like, ‘I want to donate. What do I have to do?'" Petersen added.

Transplant surgeons Alan Reed, Zoe Stewart Lewis and Daniel Katz conducted the operations on June 1, 2017. And less than a week later, both Bleuer and Petersen could go home.

"The amazing support I've received — from friends and family, from the dialysis team at Fresenius Kidney Care in Mason City, and even people from other countries who've contacted me and Nancy via social media with get-well wishes—has made this an incredible experience,” Petersen said


"The Iowa transplant team has been so supportive throughout the entire process," Bleuer added. "My health and comfort was always addressed. The follow-up care and attention to detail by the transplant coordinators has been tremendous as well. I'll always feel like part of their team."

In May 2017, the Bleuer family posted a GoFundMe to cover a portion of the teacher’s lost income, as she was not able to work immediately after the surgery. 

“Those of you who know my mom know that she is not a big spender but for these six weeks, I want to make sure she doesn't skimp on the comfort necessary for a full recovery. Your contribution to this effort is greatly appreciated,” Bleuer’s daughter wrote in 2017.

As of December 2021, the Bleuer family has raised $2,751 of their $3,500 goal.

In the U.S., thousands die every year while waiting for a transplant, with most patients needing a kidney.

“Far too few people are donating organs to begin with, and far too few of the organs that have been donated are making their way to patients in waiting. Experts say that misconceptions about donor eligibility requirements and, in some states, cumbersome registration processes are preventing nearly half of those who support organ donation from becoming registered donors,” the New York Times argued in an August 2019 editorial.

In the same piece, The Times contended that the “most promising way to end the organ shortage is by simply persuading more people to become organ donors.” 

According to the U.S. government’s Health Resources and Services Administration, each organ donation can save eight lives.

What do you think of Petersen and Bleuer’s story? Would you donate your organs to save a stranger’s life? Let us know — and be sure to pass this story on.

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