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Arizona hotshot in dire need of a kidney, searching for living donor

Arizona firefighter William Kuche is looking for a kidney. He's battled fires for more than 30 years, now he's in a battle for his life.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — After more than 30 years of service, battling wildfires and helping during natural disasters, a Flagstaff hotshot is now fighting for his life. He’s in dire need of a kidney transplant.

William Kuche was only 19 years old when he joined the U.S. Forest Service and now three decades later, he’s the superintendent of the T1 Flagstaff Interagency Hotshots in Arizona.

“He’s a leader of the elite,” said Lyndsey Kuche, William’s wife. “There aren’t many that do what he does for a living."

During his long career, William, or Bill, as his friends and family call him, brought aid to impacted areas by Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Katrina. He also battled the wildfires in Australia last year and even helped in the cleaning efforts after the Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster.

He’s done all those things while battling stage 5 chronic kidney disease.

Lyndsey Kuche said when Bill was a child, he contracted strep throat. The streptococcal virus attacked his kidneys and caused a condition called glomerulonephritis, which caused “holes” to appear in both of his kidneys, she said, adding that Bill has been on high blood pressure medication since he was a kid.

On Feb. 24, during the Kuche’s 20th wedding anniversary, and two years after being on the kidney transplant list, Bill’s condition took a turn. His wife said he was ordered to start dialysis.

“His kidneys shut down all of a sudden, abruptly within a 36-hour time period,” she said.

Since the average wait time for a deceased organ donor’s kidney is about five years, the Kuche family is focusing their efforts on finding a live donor.

Lyndsey Kuche said family members on both sides have gotten tested to be live donors but have had no luck.

“I learned that I can never be a live organ donor because I have underlying health issues that I didn’t know about,” Lyndsey Kuche said.

As the family tries to find a donor for their loved one, they also want to bring attention to the more than 107,000 people who are currently waiting for some sort of organ transplant as of February 2021.

“I really don’t want to sit here and imagine a life without him,” said Grace Kuche, Bill’s daughter.

As her father is currently undergoing treatment at Flagstaff Medical Center, Grace said he desperately needs a kidney transplant. She hopes that his life of service will inspire other to give a little of themselves, to maybe save her father’s or someone else’s life.

“Not everyone is going to be a match for my dad, there’s no way,” Grace said. “I just want people to take into consideration that he’s not the only one.”

The family created a GoFundMe page to help in this time of need. Lyndsey Kuche says they are incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support they have received so far.

“We have the ability to change other people’s lives and to give people the opportunity to live longer," Lyndsey Kuche said.

How you can become a living donor

Becoming a live donor can be a lengthy but rewarding process.

Anyone who is interested in donating an organ can fill out the questionnaire for the Mayo Clinic here.

It is recommended to discuss with your own physician that you are considering becoming a living donor.

According OrganDonor.gov, a U.S. Government Information website on Organ Donation and Transplantation, 17 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant. Another person is added to the transplant waiting list every nine minutes.

One donor can save eight lives, donating eight organs: heart, two lungs, liver, pancreas, two kidneys and intestines, the website said.

The United Network for Organ Sharing said more than 5,700 people became living organ donors in 2020.