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Flagstaff hotshot firefighter finds kidney donor in friend

Living four years with failing kidneys, Bill Kuche is getting a new kidney from a friend and fellow hotshot firefighter.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — When the wildfires rage, it’s the hotshot crews that put their lives on the line to suppress the flames. 

There’s a special brotherhood amongst the firefighters where they have each other’s back. For Bill Kuche, a member of the Flagstaff hotshots, that bond could save his life.

His kidneys began to fail in 2017, and he was put on the donor list in 2019 but still managed to continue fighting fires.

“In 2020, I started the season with a GFR of 13, and I ended the season with seven,” Kuche explained.

Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) is a measurement of kidney function, and a normal count is 60 or higher. Bill was in serious need of a kidney, and his family put out the word he needed a living donor.

Several hotshot members around the country reached out

“It’s pretty cool to put that much into your career and build those friendships and to know someone is willing to do that,” Kuche said.

That someone ended up being his longtime friend Greg Smith – who was also his boss years before on the Globe hotshot crew.

“It was like 'alright, where do I sign up?' In our community, this isn’t a surprise the way everybody comes together,” Smith said. “I’m sure when Bill found out it was me. He wanted to do a little extra shopping.”

“It’s humbling, you know, and it’s going to prolong, obviously, my life,” Kuche said. “Coming from Greg is great. It’s huge. It’s a loss for words other than I’m grateful.”

The family set up a GoFundMe account and Meal Train.

The transplant day is scheduled for November 2.

For more information on becoming a living donor go to this website.

Inspiring Arizona

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