Jackie Bladow, of Burlington, surprises her friend, Kathy Mullen, with an elephant on the day she revealed she was a match for kidney donation (Submitted/The Report).

Teacher plans to donate kidney to friend

By Jason Arndt
Editor

A casual friendship has turned into a life-saving adventure for two area women.

The adventure started last year, when Kathy Mullen, of Salem Lakes, was diagnosed with kidney failure and placed on a transplant list for a deceased donor.

While she waited, Mullen began dialysis treatment at Froedtert South in the Village of Pleasant Prairie in January, but the donor never came.

Jackie Bladow, a fifth-grade teacher in the Burlington Area School District, stepped in and offered one of her two kidneys during a lunch meeting.

The offer left Mullen speechless and with the relief of knowing her dialysis could come to an end.

“Somebody out of the blue just doesn’t offer to donate,” said Mullen. “What do you say, you are in total shock. I couldn’t find the words to explain.”

According to Bladow, her decision hinged on faith. She felt compelled to help save a life.

“It was totally a matter of faith,” she said. “I just felt this pull of God.”

Narrow opportunity
The two met through Bladow’s husband, Nick, who worked with Mullen while they were employees at Trevor-Wilmot Consolidated School in Kenosha County.

Although they worked together for one year, with Nick serving as an instructor and Mullen as a teaching assistant, they still maintained contact throughout the years.

When Mullen was initially diagnosed, only Nick knew about the ailment, but Jackie later learned of her struggles.

“I had no idea at that point that she was sick at all, but we hadn’t seen her for a couple of years,” Jackie said.

Through the lunch conversation, Mullen revealed none of her siblings were a match, according to Jackie.

Mullen, meanwhile, believes Bladow’s offer came through the a higher power.

“She is a very great person – she is very laid back and easy going,” Mullen said. “Thank you doesn’t seem like enough to say.”

“It is amazing. God is on our side. I can tell you that.”

Intensive process
While the screening process was rigorous, according to Bladow, she was more than willing to step forward.

Bladow underwent several rounds of testing, including a phone interview and medical questionnaire, along with medical exams.

“It was an entire day of testing, I think I had a 12-hour day at Froedtert,” said Bladow.

Mullen said the rigorous testing is to help medical professionals determine whether a person is a match for kidney donation.

“They do a lot of testing to make sure you are OK,” she said. “They don’t want to take a kidney from somebody and have your body reject it.”

In addition to bloodwork, Bladow underwent kidney function tests, an EKG, x-rays and a CAT scan.

Tiring dialysis
Mullen acknowledged the dialysis process is more tiring than painful, considering the frequency of her weekly treatments.

“It makes you really tired, for three and a half hours of sitting there for three days a week, it is tiring and takes its toll,” she said.

The tiring task could end on Dec. 5, when the two head to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa, where the transplant will take place.

Recovery time varies, Mullen said, but could range anywhere from one to two months.

Mullen said she will spend 5 to 7 days at the hospital while Bladow could be discharged within 3 to 5 days.

“It was a relief to find out she was a match, because then I won’t have to be on dialysis anymore,” Mullen said. “It was my life.”

Early inspiration
Bladow first became interested in becoming a living donor about five years ago, when her high school friend, Stephanie Skrede, had a daughter in need of an organ transplant.

Bladow, whose daughter was about the same age, was willing to help.

“In talking with my friend, I kept saying ‘I really would love to have the chance to help somebody in that way,” Bladow recalled. “I had actually volunteered to be a living donor for Sophia, if they needed somebody.”

Fundraisers planned
To offset the loss of some of Bladow’s sick days at BASD, along with Mullen’s medical expenses, there are two upcoming fundraisers planned in the community.

The first is Nov. 11 at Guttormsen Recreation Center in Kenosha from 1 to 3 p.m, followed by a Culver’s Night in Burlington on Nov. 26 from 5-8 p.m.

Additionally, an online crowd-funding page was set up at GoFundMe, where people can make monetary donations.

“Currently, I will need to use 24 days. I have been saving days for a number of years, and choosing to go through with the transplant will deplete what I have saved,” Bladow states on the GoFundMe page.

“I decided not to let finances be the reason not to donate my kidney, so I decided to move forward with the faith that God will work through people to provide some donations to help offset the number of days that I will need to use.”

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Oct. 18 print edition of the Burlington Standard Press and then reprinted in the Oct. 26 edition of The Report.

 
 

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