Clean teeth and a new kidney

Will Buckley, 62, of Eau Claire, needed a kidney once his University of Minnesota doctor told him the ones he had were done for. He would be too if someone didn’t step forward.

It didn’t surprise him, the Eau Claire Leader Telegram says. His incurable disease — polycystic kidney disease — had already claimed the lives of his brother and sister.

Friends and family volunteered to be a living kidney donor, but none of them matched.

When he stopped at Hillside Dental in Eau Claire last May for his semiannual checkup, he told the hygenist that someone from the U of M would be calling for medical records.

“Why?” Ann Dohm asked before getting the whole story.

“I started cleaning his teeth and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, you’ve got to see your grandkids,’” Dohm said.

While walking him out to the reception office after his appointment, she said, “I could do it.”

And she did.

She was approved as a donor and a few weeks ago, in an operation doctors described as “textbook boring”, Mr. Buckley got a new kidney.

Ms. Dohm hopes to be back at work in a week or so.

For his part, Buckley is still a little shocked at how his transplant came about.

“To have somebody unrelated step forward and do that is unbelievable,” he said, describing himself as “just a schmuck who needed a kidney” and Dohm as “the guiding light who had one to offer.”

UNOS statistics indicate that of the 1,293 kidneys donated nationwide in January, 785 were from deceased donors and 508 were from living donors. At UM Health, about half of the 80 to 90 living donor kidney transplants done annually come from people who are unrelated to recipients, Lecuyer-Koich said. The university recently completed its 113th transplant from a nondirected donor — one who doesn’t know the recipient — since the program started in 1998.

Regarding organ donors, “We think they are awesome,” Lecuyer-Koich said. “I think Ann (Dohm) is one of those altruistic people who decided she could safely do this and help make someone else’s life better.”

Dohm, whose mantel is lined with thank-you cards, choked up talking about all of the gratitude sent her way.

“To me it’s not a big deal, although I know it really is because it can save somebody’s life,” she said. “I am the one who wants to fix everything, and this is just just something I could do.”

Ann Dohm is planning a trip to Chicago in April to take part in an event trying to create the world’s largest gathering of organ donors.

  • Mike Worcester

    Each time I read stories like this it reminds me to check my driver’s license to ensure I’m marked as an organ donor. It’s so simple to do and can have, quite literally, life-saving results.

    • Lindsey

      Also, make sure your next of kin knows, since they are still asked to make the decision often.