Tilton police officer receiving overwhelming support in search for kidney
Cpl. Nate Morrison, of the Tilton police department, chats with officer Gary Robinson while starting their shifts on Thursday afternoon, March 28, 2013. Last summer, Morrison went in for a routine physical and was shocked to learn he was in the early stages of renal failure. Morrison was born with only one kidney and it wasn't filtering properly but was an otherwise healthy on duty cop and former bodybuilder. He continues to work while being on the waiting list for a kidney transplant along with another thousands of other people across the country. (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
In a single week, about 300 people signed up as potential kidney donors to Tilton police Cpl. Nate Morrison, after his coworkers set up a website to help him find a transplant. With the two weeks it takes to determine if someone’s a match, that’s enough people to help him keep searching for six years.
Morrison’s confident he’ll find a kidney in much less time, but he hopes the heightened awareness will encourage potential donors to help all of the other people, young and old, who are also looking for new kidneys.
“It’s been outstanding. I can’t believe the amount of people who have come forth that want to donate to a complete stranger,” Morrison said. “At some point, I’m sure I’m going to find somebody that matches me. But I’ve got all of these people who are potential donors, and I would ask, on my behalf and on behalf of everybody else going through this, that if you’re willing to donate to me, to think about doing it for somebody else who could really benefit from it.”
Morrison, 45, first learned he was suffering from kidney failure last summer, after a routine physical to become a member of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Clandestine Lab Team revealed he had high levels of creatinine in his blood. (Creatinine is created during muscle metabolism and supposed to be filtered out through the kidneys.) The creatinine levels in his body were so high that Morrison ended up at the emergency room. When he had an ultrasound to
help diagnose the cause, he was hit with another surprise: He only has one kidney.
He’s continued to work since his diagnosis, and is in better shape physically than many others who suffer from kidney failure. But his kidney failure is chronic, which means it won’t get better, and a recent second opinion confirmed that he needs to find a kidney as soon as possible. That’s where his coworkers came in.
Detective Nate Buffington, Chief Robert Cormier and others in the department set up a website seeking potential kidney donors with blood Type O negative. Those who want to help but aren’t Type O can donate to a fund set up through Northway Bank. That money will go to the donor and Morrison to help cover costs incurred from being out of work for four to six weeks after the transplant. Over the next several weeks, there will be a number of fundraising events sponsored by various local businesses.
Buffington said the response has been so overwhelming that he’s had to tell people the donor list is already long enough. He and the department are grateful for all the support. He also hopes people willing to donate to Morrison will also consider donating to others. One man called the station saying he heard about the initiative and that his 15-year-old son was also looking for kidney, Buffington said.
Morrison, who is married and has a daughter, has been with the Tilton Police Department for 14 years. He describes himself as a fairly private person, so he’s not used to all of the attention he’s now receiving. But he’s been humbled by the support from the public and the effort his coworkers are making to help him.
“I work with these guys every day; they’ve got my back, I’ve got their back, we’ll take a bullet for each other every day of the week,” Morrison said. “But for them to step up to the plate and do this is – wow – mind-boggling.”
Buffington and another officer have even put their names on the donor list.
Morrison and his first potential donor, his brother-in-law, have an appointment at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center next week to see if the kidney is a match. The first step is mixing their blood samples to see if they mesh. If so, there are a host of other tests to see if Morrison’s body will accept one of his brother-in-law’s kidneys. If their blood doesn’t mix well, it’s back to the list of donors.
Since his diagnosis last summer, Morrison has had to learn a lot about his condition and how to prepare for a transplant. Last fall, he and his wife went to “kidney college” at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, a requirement to become a recipient of a kidney donation. There he learned more about his kidney failure and met the surgeons who will eventually be performing his surgery. With each doctor visit, his condition becomes more serious and his need for a donor more urgent.
He’s continued visiting the gym, which brings mixed opinions from his doctors. Some have said his physical fitness may be a reason he’s not experiencing the same level of symptoms that people with kidney failure typically face. Morrison said he is more tired than normal sometimes, and he has good days and bad days, but overall he isn’t experiencing intense suffering.
That’s part of what made it hard to accept at first. As anyone coping with a difficult situation, Morrison said he went through stages of denial and anger.
“To be totally honest, I was really angry,” he said. “I don’t want to sound negative, but I deal with a lot of people that put chemicals into their body that can harm the body and they’re doing this intentionally. Here I am, I’ve been working and living my life as healthy as I can be, and this hits you.”
But now that’s he had time to learn about and accept his condition, Morrison has found a purpose in his fight.
“I look at it like this: There must be a reason why this happened to me,” he said. “And I think part of it is possibly for me to help get the word out and assist other people.”