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By Wesley Robinson
It’s been nearly seven years since Donna Bothur donated her kidney but she’s still actively working to raise awareness to help those in need.
“If everybody in Oldham County were aware of this that’s all the more people that would become a donor,” Bothur said. “If they knew about it and how uncomplicated it was to donate when you’re alive, maybe more people would do it.”
Bothur, 46, of Crestwood is gearing up for the Louisville Kidney Walk at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29 at Riverfront Park. The 13th annual walk is a 5K and will feature health and wellness tents, food and drink and kid zones to entertain youth.
Since she donated her kidney in 2006, Bothur has participated in the walk and has raised the most money of all individual fundraisers, tallying between $1,000 and $2,000 each year. Bothur said she walks for awareness so people will consider donating kidneys, as well other organs.
“It’s priceless,” Bothur said of organ donation. “There are 17 people who die every day waiting for an organ.”
Her kidney donation saved the life of her husband’s cousin John Mark Stepanowski, 45, of Bridgeport, Conn. Stepanowski said he has been on dialysis for 15 months and the stress of diabetes and treatment was taking a toll on him. He had been on dialysis for three years for several hours four times a week.
“I can honestly say I saw people die in front of me on the dialysis machine,” Stepanowski said. “After a certain point, you think you’re the next one.”
When Bothur’s husband told her about Stepanowski, she said she asked what she could to do help. After tests and tissue matching, Bothur said doctors found out she was a perfect match. Stepanowski’s blood relatives fared better than Bothur on the tests, which matches up to 10 points. Stepanowski’s father was only an 8-point match, but had health issues of his own and could not donate.
“I thought somebody had to do something,” Bothur said. “If I could do something about it, I would like to have (helped in some way). I just thought it would be neat to help somebody. His family was going through hell and I didn’t know if I could live with myself if I didn’t do anything.”
Stepanowski said the doctors were astounded that Bothur’s organs were a perfect match considering the lack of blood relation. Nonetheless, he and his family were happy to have a chance at a healthy life.
“It was like getting a death sentence revoked,” Stepanowski said, adding that he was probably on his “last leg” of living.
Bothur said donating was a fairly easy process. Other than the tests she took to determine whether she was a match, she was only off work for a month on short-term disability. Her only restriction was no heavy lifting and after surgery she said she opted for Tylenol for pain. Small scars from the surgery incisions are the only visible sign of her donation.
In addition to the selfless act of donating, Bothur remains dedicated to the annual walk and fundraiser, the Louisville Kidney Walk.
April Enix, development director with the National Kidney Foundation, said the goal is to raise $145,000 at this event to spread awareness.
“There’s so many people in Kentucky who could be at risk and don’t know it until they’re educated,” Enix said. “People who have kidney disease may not know it. Symptoms aren’t [always] evident … it’s not as evident as some other issues but it’s still a killer.”
Enix said she Bothur has been the top individual fundraiser the past few years and is on pace to meet that goal this year. Bothur said she is hopeful the kidney walk can reach the scale of the local cancer walk, so that people will become more aware of kidney issues.
Bothur, a registered organ donor, said she gives blood regularly and would like to donate bone marrow as well. She said she would donate another kidney if she could.
“It was a very enriching experience for me to see the good that it did for the whole family,” Bothur said. “It was the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever done.”
For more information about the Louisville Kidney Walk, contact April Enix at 502.585.5433 ext. 105 or firstname.lastname@example.org.