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Mother gives son Gift of Life in more ways than one

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A mother’s love is selfless and should be celebrated, on Mother’s Day and every day. Maura Brighter, mother of two, is the ultimate example of giving and what it means to be a devoted mom.  On May 16th, she is going to donate one of her kidneys to her son Kevin, 19.

Kevin with his mother, Maura, who was a match for his kidney transplant.

Kevin is Maura and her husband’s first child.  At 18 weeks pregnant, Maura’s doctors had concerns about her ultrasound, and saw issues with Kevin’s kidneys.  After Kevin was born, he was diagnosed with kidney disease.  One of his kidneys had zero function.  The other kidney had minimal function, but allowed him to live a life free from dialysis for nearly three years.  Kevin was listed for a kidney transplant shortly before his third birthday, and both of his parents were tested to be donors.

His mother and father, Kevin Sr., were both matches.  His father wanted to be his son’s donor, and said to Maura, “You brought him into this world and now it’s my turn.”  Kevin’s kidney lasted for 17 healthy years, until this past Christmas when the family knew that something was wrong.  Kevin began to experience significant swelling and had to go on dialysis because his kidney was failing.

Kevin is a junior at La Salle University and hasn’t allowed kidney disease and dialysis to slow him down.  He has always been active.  Even when he was in high school, he played baseball, worked part-time and ran his school’s morning news program.

He has been on dialysis for approximately four months, and it hasn’t been easy.  His mother is counting down the days until she can donate her kidney and help her son.  Maura said, “People say what a wonderful thing I’m doing by donating, but I’m a mom and that’s what we do.  This is what we’re meant to do – care for our children and make life better for them.”

Kevin said, “When I first found out that I had to go on dialysis and someone would have to donate a kidney to me, I felt really bad.  I’m glad that my mom can give me a part of her in this way.  It means the world to me.  I’m so proud of her for going through it all.  I’m really grateful for her.”

The Brighter family.

Maura feels blessed to be able to help her son, and that she is healthy enough to donate. The family’s youngest child, Grace, 17, also wanted to be Kevin’s donor, showing what a generous spirit the entire Brighter family has.

Currently in Gift of Life’s region – the eastern half of PA, southern NJ and DE – there are more than 5,400 men, women and children awaiting a life-saving transplant.  With an average of 22 people dying each day while waiting, the statistics are frightening.  Maura said, “You can’t take your organs with you when you die, so why wouldn’t you want to help someone in need.  Recipients can go on to live long, healthy lives.  I think if people really put themselves in the situation of needing a transplant or watching someone they love suffer, everyone would register.”

The Brighter family has had an outpouring of support from their family, friends and neighbors in Northeast Philadelphia’s Torresdale neighborhood.  “Something like this really brings people closer.  Everyone has been so good to us.  Kids that Kevin grew up with organized a Donor Dash team this year for him.  They saw him grow up and know him.  They see what he’s going through and they wanted to help.  They raised money and it was so sweet to see them do that for him.”