- Associated Press - Saturday, March 22, 2014

MYSTIC, Conn. (AP) - Friends and family of middle school science teacher Brad Vernet tried for months to find him a matching live kidney donor, utilizing Facebook and YouTube to publicize their cause.

But ultimately, they found success through old-fashioned word-of-mouth.

Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston recently approved Vernet’s classmate from Springfield College, Mike Sheehan, of Davis, Calif., as a match. Sheehan learned of Vernet’s search over the summer from a mutual classmate. Doctors will now transfer Sheehan’s left kidney to Vernet during three hours of simultaneous surgery slated for April 10.

Vernet teaches at West Side Middle School in Groton. He and his wife, who live in Mystic with their two children, are now beaming with relief and gratitude at the news.

“He’s in it and he’s ready to go, so we’re so fortunate,” said wife Katy, who teaches at Claude Chester School in Groton.

The transfer couldn’t have come at a better time. Vernet was born with only one kidney and 23 years ago was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.

This past summer, his kidney function dropped to below 20 percent and he entered stage five of the disease. He said his kidney function has recently stabilized at a low of eight percent.

“I’m just going week by week now, and I am tired,” Vernet said on a recent Sunday at his Mystic home.

Sheehan notified the Vernet family March 9 that he would be donating. He said he has refrained from telling the family he was going through the donor process for fear of letting them down if he didn’t work out as a match. Hospitals don’t notify patients of a possible donor until the donor has passed a rigorous series of tests and confirmed his or her intent to give an organ.

“We so seldom have an option in our life to have this sort of impact on someone else’s life,” Sheehan said.

He submitted preliminary paperwork in the summer. While Sheehan waited to find out if he would be eligible to donate his kidney, the Vernet family poured their energy into exploring available options.

They were accepted to the waitlist of the national organ donor registry in the fall, but the wait time for a kidney from a cadaver through the registry can take as long as five years.

Vernet’s wife said 15 to 20 friends told the couple they had started the donor screening process. One friend made it to the tail end of the process, only for doctors to rule him out due to high blood pressure. Vernet and his wife started looking into paired exchange, in which hospitals investigate whether a donor rejected for one patient is a good match for another.

“There’s this whole feeling of you just don’t even know what direction to go in,” said Katy.

Community support made the stress more bearable.

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