Kevin Brighter, a Torresdale native, is searching for a kidney donor with the support of his family.
Maura Brighter can still remember the moment Dr.Bernard Kaplan told her and her husband, Kevin, their son would live a happy and healthy life.
She was about 30 weeks pregnant with him, and had been told by other doctors he wouldn’t lead a normal life.
But they had refused to take that for an answer. So after doing some research, Kevin found Kaplan. He told them their son would grow up, go to school, go to the prom, get married and be loved.
He was right. Seeing their son, also named Kevin, now, you wouldn’t think he had been dealing with health issues his entire life. He holds himself with a poise and quiet confidence far beyond his age of 19 years. He’s soft-spoken, but speaks with an open-hearted honesty that’s immediately endearing.
Kevin just completed his sophomore year at La Salle University. He’s studying Integrated Science Business and Technology with a concentration in biotechnology (more on that mouthful of a major later). He’s vice president of Delta Sigma Phi, and when he has free time, he likes to hang out with family and friends, catch a Phillies game, or play golf or tennis. And yes, he did go to the prom.
But unfortunately, the health issues he was born with are catching up to him.
Last December, Kevin’s kidney began failing again. It was actually his father’s kidney — when Kevin Jr. was 3 years old, Kevin Sr. donated his kidney. Kevin was born with kidney disease.
The doctor promised him up to 20 years of life with this kidney.
He was able to get through the semester despite having to come home three days a week for dialysis, a kidney treatment procedure.
“After classes, I had to come home and I would miss social aspects and fraternity events at school,” Kevin said.
Maura immediately stepped up to donate her kidney.
“Someone asked me what it means to me to be able to do it,” Maura said through tears. “But it’s automatic, because I’m his mother.”
Unfortunately, blood tests revealed that Kevin’s body had developed an antibody that would reject his mother’s blood, making the procedure dangerous.
Maura described the moment she learned she could not donate her kidney as the worst moment of her life.
“Every morning, I wake up and for a split second I think it was a nightmare,” she said. “Then I realize I have to keep going, putting one foot in front of the other.”
Now, the Brighter family is searching for a donor. They are amazed by the amount of support friends and strangers have shown for them, as many people have stepped up to donate.
However, the process to become a donor isn’t easy. Potential donors must go through multiple tests to make sure their blood is compatible with Kevin’s. Determining a compatible match can take months. Maura described the process as finding a needle in a haystack.
In this difficult time, the Brighters are following their family motto: keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other.
“We’re going to try plan B, or C, or D or E, or whatever it takes,” Maura said.
Maura works in insurance while Kevin Sr. has been a police officer for 25 years. Kevin’s sister, Gracie, is a junior at St. Hubert High School. She is involved in volleyball and basketball, and is a National Honor Society officer and a Bambie ambassador.
They like to spend time together as a family, especially to support each other during this time. They take a vacation to Disney World in Florida every summer, a tradition they had to skip this year.
“Just being close together and being a tight-knit family helps a lot,” Kevin said.
Kevin one day hopes to design medical devices. He’s inspired by his own medical issues and fascinated by how the machines that he uses operate.
He’s a graduate from MaST Community Charter School, which exposes students to math, science and technology courses.
Kevin and Maura both said “thank you” won’t cover their gratitude to Kevin’s future donor.
“The real heroes are the people who have no relation or connection to those in need,” Maura said, tearfully. “There are genuinely good people who do good things. You hear about all the bad in the world, and become jaded. But then you see people who do these tremendous acts of generosity, and you’re blown away.” ••
Potential donors can fill out an application on Penn Medicine’s website. They must be type B or O blood. They must be at least 21 years old, not have diabetes or heart issues and be in reasonably good shape. More information can be found on the Facebook page A Kidney for Kevin for a Brighter Future.