Submitted by the Kidney Foundation of WNY
Paul Kupiec is a longtime North Tonawanda resident. He and his wife, MaryBeth, enjoy joining in community events and activities, but health issues now limit his energy and options. Kupiec and his family hope that a kidney transplant will give him a new lease on life.
Kupiec spent almost 30 years as a stationary engineer at DeGraff Memorial Hospital, keeping boilers, coolers and mechanical systems running until kidney disease forced him to go out on disability.
“I like working with my hands,” said Kupiec, who also used to enjoy woodworking, fishing and travel. “We used to ride motorcycles, but we’re not doing that anymore – I guess all the things we really like to do we can’t really do right now.”
Though Kupiec has had diabetes for nearly two decades, his kidney function declined quickly after 2019.
“I knew that diabetes can damage your kidneys, but it came on fast,” he said.
Kupiec started dialysis in 2021 and immediately began looking into getting a kidney transplant.
“It didn’t seem like it was real,” he recalled.
While dialysis has been working well for him, he is still dealing with fatigue, anemia, dizziness, blood pressure issues and more. Preparing for the transplant has required Kupiec to undergo several medical procedures, including the placement of a stent, and ankle surgery.
With many tests and medical treatments behind him, Kupiec is now on the active kidney transplant waiting list at Erie County Medical Center. The improved health and freedom made possible by a transplant would allow him to spend more quality time with his children and grandchildren, and to travel with his wife.
The Kupiec family is sharing Paul’s story in hopes that a living donor will come forward. They’ve been working with the Kidney Foundation of WNY on strategies to reach friends and neighbors who might consider living organ donation or just help spread the word. MaryBeth Kupiec is posting updates to Facebook tagged #AKidneyForKoop and family members have ordered decals for their cars to spread the word.
“Kidney health issues are often invisible. Sharing Paul’s story and others like it helps to increase awareness about kidney disease and the need for organ donors,” said Jeremy Morlock, director of the Kidney Foundation of WNY. “Anyone can sign up through the Donate Life New York State Registry and possibly save eight lives through organ donation. The kidney is the most needed organ for transplant. Kidneys are special because of the option for living donation – many healthy people have two kidneys and can live a full and active life after donating one.”
One in every seven U.S. adults is affected by chronic kidney disease, but many don’t know it. Signs and symptoms often go unnoticed until a person has lost up to 90% of their kidney function. The leading causes of chronic kidney disease are high blood pressure and diabetes.
Morlock noted that anyone wishing to learn about kidney health, treatment and transplantation can contact the Kidney Foundation of WNY at 716-529-4390 or visit kfwny.org The foundation has resources for people with kidney disease, including those in need of a transplant.