National Donor Day highlights alumni need for kidney donations

Today is Valentine’s Day, an observation of love. But it is also National Donor Day, celebrating those who give a gift of love and life through organ, eye and tissue donation.

The donation of a kidney can be done by a living donor, and two Ripon alumni are among those desperately waiting for a donated kidney.

Beth Palmbach Nemecek ’79 of Neenah, Wisconsin, is waiting for her second donated kidney. She was blessed to receive her first in late November 2018 from an acquaintance she barely knew. It worked well until she got COVID-19 in November 2020. By the end of that month, the kidney had stopped functioning. She had to go back on dialysis immediately.

“It’s hard,” Nemecek says. “The fatigue is challenging. I just really want to be done doing dialysis. My goal is to find a living donor because then everything is planned, and a person can live very well with only one kidney.”

Although Nemecek says she was “devastated” with the failure of her donated kidney, she says is blessed with the strong support of her family and her classmates at Ripon.

She is executive director of Bella Medical Clinic in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, which provides free services for pregnant women. “I love life, I love my friends and family and what I do,” she says. “I’m not done yet. I just have so much to do.”

Chuck Winer ’68 of Framingham, Massachusetts, works hard to get the message out about the importance of all organ donations. “We want to demystify the process so people can see it is not as threatening as it might seem,” he says. “So many thousands of people are looking for a kidney donor.” He says there currently is a six-year waiting list unless one can find a living donor on their own.

He has assembled a plethora of information on his website kidney4chuck.com.

Winer served as a combat correspondent and photographer in Vietnam. His kidneys are failing because of medical treatment for a blood cancer that came from exposure to Agent Orange. He is very close to needing dialysis.

“It’s a challenge because I have to be extremely careful about my diet,” he says. He also maintains a daily exercise routine to keep his muscles strong.

Winer had a 40-year career in health care administration. “It has always been my goal to assure that all Americans could access quality health care services,” he says.

“My faith remains strong despite this new challenge of kidney failure,” Winer says. “I try to keep active doing things that will keep me healthy as long as possible. I keep focused on those things I can control. It doesn’t help to sit around and worry about it.”

Other sources for information about donating are unos.org and UWHealth.org in Madison.


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