Levant woman doesn’t miss kidney she donated to gym friend

Bangor Daily News | Judy Harrison

Mary Pettegrow (left) donated a kidney to her friend, Debra Gunn, two months ago.

LEVANT, Maine — Mary Tower Pettegrow doesn’t miss the kidney she gave to save the life of her friend Debra Gunn in August. Instead, the experience has turned both women into enthusiastic advocates for living organ donation.

When Gunn, 50, of Holden was told in June 2014 that she needed a kidney transplant, she wasn’t very worried. She has an identical twin sister, Barbara Cookson, who also lives in Holden.

Because their DNA is the same, Gunn would never have had to worry about organ rejection.

Even though she showed no symptoms, Cookson was rejected as a possible donor because she had some of the genetic markers for Alport Syndrome, the disease that was causing Gunn’s kidneys to fail.

Alport Syndrome is an inherited disease that primarily affects the glomeruli, the tiny tufts of capillaries in the kidneys that filter wastes from the blood, according to information on the National Kidney Foundation’s website. The disease was first described by an English doctor named A. Cecil Alport. It causes gene mutations that affect type IV collagen, a protein that is important to the normal structure and function of glomeruli. Continue reading