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Friday, August 26, 2011

Belmont resident holds out for kidney donation

by Christine Kenney | Belmont Citizen Herald, Belmont, MA


When resident Steven Kerins went to see his primary doctor in February 2010 with flu-like symptoms—a stiff neck, fever, headache — he was not expecting to be transported to Mount Auburn Hospital because of an alarming creatine level of 5.5. Kerins went to his appointment expecting to leave with a fixer-upper antibiotic. Instead, he left with terrifying news: The 45-year-old father of two was experiencing kidney failure.

Kerins was diagnosed with Berger’s Disease, which causes inflammation of the kidney. He has battled high blood pressure for four years and he believes his untreated high blood pressure led to his failing kidney, which currently only functions at 15 to 29 percent.

Five months later, he is now faced with a daunting task: Find a kidney donor or go on dialysis, four hours a day, every two days for the rest of his life. Kerins has at least a five-year wait on the donor list, and his doctor told him three months ago he had six months to a year before dialysis becomes his only option.

“Once you go on dialysis, it’s almost like all bets are off,” Kerins said, adding the odds of receiving a kidney once he is “strapped to a machine” are slim.

Kerins, a 1984 graduate of Belmont High School, has a strong support system made up of family and friends, who call themselves “The K Team.” What’s their mission? To find a kidney donor who is age 18 or older, blood type A or O, and who has no medical issues, someone who is willing to undergo approximately six weeks of recovery after a surgery for someone they may not know.

The team made fliers and networked in local communities in hopes someone will feel inspired to donate an organ vital to Kerins’ quality of life.

On Aug. 28 from 2 to 7 p.m., The K team will hold a fundraiser at the Arlington Elks to offset the medical costs and provide compensation for a prospective donor. The attendees of the event are suggested to make a $10 donation, although people any contribution is welcome.

Children have free entry. Guests can enjoy a hamburger, hot dog, bag of chips and a piece of cake. Items will be auctioned, such as a football signed by Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and several other Patriots’ players and a fiddle signed by the Charlie Daniels, creator of, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

Guests also have the chance to win raffles, prizes including gift cards and a pass to see behind-the-scenes at a Kiss 108 talk show. At a kid’s corner, children can participate in arts and crafts. Olivia, Kerins’ 15-year-old daughter and award-winning singer, will perform at the event. A dance team will also perform for guests. Retired Lowell boxer Micky Ward and actor Mark Walhberg, who portrayed Ward in the film “The Fighter,” are rumored to make an appearance, and Walhberg called Kerins to tell him he would be supplying items from the set of “The Fighter,” for auction.

Kerins is grateful for the support of his wife, Roula, children Olivia and Steven, nephew, Brian and sister Diane Kerins-Conneely. Other K team members include friends Sean Stellato, Chip Jones, and Mark Spinos, cousin Kathy Hughes-Babbin, and Kerin’s niece and godchild Deirdra Conneely.

One member did not know Kerins prior to his illness. Gina Tecci saw a flier advertising Kerins’ search for a donor posted in Waltham, and she joined the team to help any way she could.

“They’ve been the backbone, giving me all the courage and the love and everything,” Kerins said. “So I wake up everyday and slap the armor on and jump in the battlefield.”

“It’s nothing you wouldn’t do for us,” his sister, Diane, assured him. She said she and her brother have been very close their whole lives. Diane, along with the other K team members, have worked hard to obtain prizes for the fundraiser.

“It’s not always easy,” she said, explaining how difficult it is to ask for a donation when she feels emotionally drained. She was up until 3 a.m. on Aug. 17 creating crucifixes made out of clothespins to sell at the fundraiser.

“When crisis hits a family, there are people who have different reactions,” Kerins said. His appreciation for those who stepped up is clear. “They keep the engine running.”

Kerins and Diane are unwaveringly positive someone will donate a kidney.

“Somebody is going to feel it down deep inside to do something for mankind, to reach out and help somebody out of the love in their heart,” Kerins said.

“People do random acts of kindness everyday,” added Diane.

Kerins’ son, Steven, held a fundraiser in July and raised $1,300 for his father’s cause. Kerins does not have an ideal financial goal for the fundraiser, but he is hopeful many people will attend and enjoy the event.

T-shirts, styled after Harley-Davidson shirts, are available on kidneyforsteviek.com.

Originally, Kerins planned to hold the event at St. Joseph’s Church in Belmont, but scheduling conflicts got in the way. Kerins encourages anybody and everybody to attend the fundraiser.

Kerins is a pipe fitter for the MBTA, which he has only been able to do part-time due to his illness. Diane jokes her brother should be the mayor since he knows so many people. They are both hopeful his friendly nature and positive attitude will drive people to attend the event and help him find a kidney donor.

“It’s going to happen,” Kerins said, confident someone will be kind enough to give him what he needs to live comfortably.


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