- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - You wouldn’t guess from looking at the two men that they underwent organ transplant surgery earlier this year. But that’s just what Lawrence middle school teachers Scott Forkenbrock and Mike Wormsley did, when Forkenbrock donated a kidney to his colleague in January.

Nine months later, they’re both back teaching at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School. Wormsley no longer needs dialysis, and Forkenbrock has returned to his physically active lifestyle, the Lawrence Journal-World (http://bit.ly/1u9ygrY ) reported.

Forkenbrock’s generous act is even inspiring others. After a friend heard about what he did, she decided to run the New York City Marathon in November by raising money for the PKD Foundation, which spreads awareness about the kidney disorder that had Wormsley on the transplant waiting list before his co-worker came to the rescue.

“It was nothing I’d ever heard of anyone doing before,” said Amanda Wittman, 30, an Olathe sign-language interpreter who has pledged to raise $3,500 for the PKD Foundation in order to run the marathon, which her husband and Forkenbrock and his wife will be participating in as well. “You read about it with family members and loved ones, but to donate a kidney to a co-worker, I was just amazed. After seeing him go through that surgery, I feel honored to know him.”

Forkenbrock, 43, acts like it’s no big deal. He did the research ahead of time and found out he could donate a kidney and be back to 100 percent in a matter of months. He was more concerned about Wormsley, who hadn’t been himself after experiencing kidney failure two years ago. He had no energy, could only work part-time and was considering early retirement, all due to polycystic kidney disease, a hereditary condition that causes cysts to develop on the kidney.

After successfully undergoing the transplant at Kansas University Hospital in January, the two men were back to teaching within seven weeks. And nine months later, Wormsley is his old self again.

“I feel like I’m pretty much back to where I was before my kidney shut down,” the 62-year-old said on a recent day at the Lawrence middle school. “I’m working full-time. My energy is up. My health is good.”

While he continues to take anti-rejection drugs, he recently reached the first major post-transplant milestone of six months without the kidney failing. He’s back to lifting weights and going on bike rides longer than a mile, and over the summer he and his wife traveled to Washington without having to plan the trip around where the nearest dialysis center was.

“I’ve learned how organ donors can just totally change someone’s life,” he said. “Whether you donate after you die or as a live donor, it radically changes people’s lives. For me, I feel like I can contribute to society again.”

It took Forkenbrock about six months to get back to full strength, but he’s already made up for the lost time. He did a 50-mile bike race in Colorado in July, as well as a 100-mile trek the following month. He’s now training for the November marathon.

“I feel great. I have no regrets,” he said. “I’m just happy it all worked out. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.”

“I’d just like to encourage others to explore and consider it,” he added. “There is a great need for kidney donation. I was able to get back to my normal life after six months of recovery. It’s very realistic.”

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com

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