How Kevin Schnurr Honors His Gift of a New Kidney
On May 6, 2014, all Kevin Schnurr had to do was remember his name and date of birth.
So—on May 6, 2014—Kevin awoke from surgery, and doctors and nurses asked him his name and date of birth.
Kevin successfully replied, “My name is Kevin Schnurr … and I was born on March 31, 1986.”
Kevin then furthered his response.
“I’m also in a Stony Brook Hospital recovery room … and my best friend, Matt, just gave me a kidney.”
The doctors and nurses laughed, and replied, “Yes. Matt did … and the kidney is working!”
It Started with Fatigue
Kevin Schnurr met his kidney donor, Matt Threadgill, when the two of them worked together in retail.
They soon became best friends.
Prior to receiving that kidney from Matt, Kevin’s life was a rough patch.
In 2012, Kevin, then 26, was working as a graphic designer when he noticed he was always feeling fatigued—even after a solid night’s sleep. He felt nauseous, and often had a hard time keeping foods down.
One day at work, his boss told him, “You don’t look well.”
Kevin left work early and went to the hospital.
“I was expecting to get some antibiotics and go home, but they took one look at me and my blood pressure and it was lethally high.”
After some lab work, doctors told him he had Stage-5 end-stage renal disease.
“Literally, within an hour of me getting to the hospital, they were prepping me for surgery,” recalls Kevin. “They put a groin catheter into me, and I immediately began dialysis.”
Adding a 1-2 punch to the mix, Kevin also learned that he had Alport Syndrome, which is a genetic condition he inherited from his mother. Alport Syndrome is characterized by kidney disease, hearing loss, and eye abnormalities, and afflicts approximately 1 in 5,000-10,000 people in the United States.1
Kevin spent 90 days in the hospital on hemodialysis. After his hospital stay and for two years, Kevin performed peritoneal dialysis nightly for ten hours with the help of a cycler.
During this time, Kevin started volunteering for the Alport Syndrome Foundation, a nonprofit for which he is today the Director of Communications and Patient Engagement.
Matt to the Rescue
Kevin had already taken the steps to get on a wait list for a new kidney, but he also knew that in New York the wait time is 5 to 7 years.
It was then that Kevin’s best friend, Matt, told Kevin that he wanted to be his donor.
“Matt and I were best friends, and he knew about my need and said he wanted to do it,” said Kevin. “The biggest hiccup at the time was that Matt worked in the auto industry in the finance department and would have to request 6 weeks off to recover.”
Fortunately, Matt’s boss at the car dealership had just received a new kidney herself from a donor.
“So, when she found out Matt wanted to give me his, she said, ’Take all the time you need.’”
May 6, 2014
The night before the surgery, Kevin and Matt pretty much spent the entire night on the phone with each other. Kevin recalls he grabbed an hour of sleep and woke up at 4:30 am.
“I unplugged from my dialysis machine, and I said, “See ya later!’”
Once Kevin and Matt arrived at the hospital, they did prep work and texted silly pics of each other in surgery caps.
A New Life
After the surgery, it was the beginning of new life for Kevin.
“For me, the biggest change was when I got home” he recalls.
The first new routine to which Kevin had to become acclimated was pill taking.
“Some pills you take every 12 hours, and some you take every 24,” says Kevin. “I bought a pill organizer. I felt like a grandparent with all my daily pills.”
Kevin established a disciplined routine of setting alarm reminders to take his pills.
Kevin has since graduated to using the AlloCare® app to get his reminders and stay on track with taking his medications.
“I scratch my head when people tell me they forgot to take their meds,” says Kevin. “I tell them, ‘Just set an alarm.’”
Kevin also likes using his AlloCare app for quick access to kidney-transplant-centric stories and research, as well as COVID-19 updates.
“Ensuring my donated kidney stays happy and healthy is my goal, and any tool that helps me achieve that goal is a win for me as a patient,” says Kevin.
A Call to Advocacy
Prior to his transplant when he was living on dialysis, Kevin says he first got into advocacy.
“One of the first things I did was I went over the Brooklyn Bridge with the National Kidney Foundation,” says Kevin. “I got excited seeing all of the kidney patients who were in this together.”
Kevin also works with Honor the Gift, which is a national transplant-patient-centered campaign promoted by a coalition of kidney and transplant organizations. Honor the Gift was instrumental in getting Congress to pass Senate Bill 3353 (The Immuno Bill) on December 22, 2020. This bipartisan legislation will extend Medicare’s Part B coverage of immunosuppressive (“anti-rejection”) drugs for kidney-transplant recipients beyond the current three-year limit.2,3
“The longer you have the coverage for the pills, the long people will take them, and—hopefully—the longer the kidney survives,” says Kevin.
Honoring the Gift—and His Best Friend
Kevin’s advice to people living with either kidney failure or a transplant is “Don’t suffer in silence.”
“For me, there was a time when I wallowed in self-pity,” says Kevin. “I was afraid to talk to friends about being in kidney failure. Once I met other patients, however, I had no shame in telling my story. It’s always encouraging to know you have a buddy in this struggle. And the more people you meet who are facing something similar, the greater the community becomes.”
Kevin does all he can to prevent rejection and live the best life possible. He knows that if he takes his meds, keeps in touch with his care team, and gets his labs, he can sleep at night knowing that he did his best.
Kevin calls his transplanted kidney a “gift,” and says he will do everything in his power to protect and keep it.
“To honor Matt … it’s the least I can do.”
To learn more about Honor the Gift, visit https://honorthegift.org
For more information about the Alport Syndrome Foundation, go to https://www.alportsyndrome.org/