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Nurse donates kidney to Alpena native

ALPENA – In the small town of Alpena, Michigan, a remarkable story unfolded that demonstrated the power of compassion, faith, and the willingness to make a life-changing difference in someone’s life. Patti Ahlgren, a registered nurse (R.N.), and Brad McRoberts, a former undersheriff and I.T. director for Alpena County, found their lives intertwined through faith and an urgent need for a kidney transplant.

Brad McRoberts was battling polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a genetic disorder that causes cysts to develop within the kidneys, leading to their enlargement and gradual loss of function. Unfortunately, he had lost his sisters to this relentless disease and was now facing the same battle. His condition had deteriorated to the point where he was exhausted, anemic, and experiencing severe symptoms, including muscle spasms and high potassium levels. He was placed on the transplant list, desperately waiting for a kidney that could save his life.

In this challenging moment, Patti Ahlgren, a newcomer to Alpena with her husband, felt a calling to become part of the solution. She decided to undergo testing to see if she could donate her kidney to Brad. It was a courageous decision, driven by her rare blood type (AB) and her unwavering faith. As a nurse, she understood the benefits of live kidney donation compared to receiving one from a cadaver.

Ahlgren’s journey was not without its challenges, as she faced the concerns of her husband, Bob, who worried about her safety. However, the couple believed in the strength of their faith and their ability to overcome this hurdle together. Ahlgren’s determination and unwavering belief that she was called to this mission kept her going.

The road to donation led them to the paired kidney exchange program at the University of Michigan, a program that broadens the pool of potential donors by connecting incompatible donor-recipient pairs with others in need. It was a lifeline for Brad and Patti, who were eagerly awaiting their match. Their patience and faith paid off when, in October, they received the long-awaited phone call that would change their lives forever.

With emotions running high, both families embarked on a journey to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Ahlgren and McRoberts underwent their surgeries on the same day, with remarkable success. The doctors were pleased with the outcomes, and both patients were discharged just three days after their surgeries. Brad McRoberts would need to take immunosuppressant drugs for life to prevent rejection, but he had a new lease on life and a new “kid sister” in Patti Ahlgren.

This incredible act of kindness not only saved Brad McRoberts’ life but also transformed Patti Ahlgren’s life. She reflected on her experience, emphasizing the importance of organ donation and encouraging others to explore the possibility of giving the gift of life. In the United States, many people die every day while waiting for organ transplants, highlighting the critical need for donors.

Patti Ahlgren’s story is a testament to the extraordinary impact that one person’s selflessness can have on another’s life. Her willingness to donate a kidney not only saved a life but also strengthened the bonds of faith and community in Alpena, Michigan. It serves as a powerful reminder of the potential for goodness and compassion that resides within each of us, waiting to make a difference in the lives of those in need.


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