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A Miramichi school bus driver is getting a special gift from a former student on his route. Pat Jepson will receive a kidney from a woman who he used to drive to school, after waiting nearly two years for a transplant according to CBC.
Natalie Woods, also from Miramichi, is the donor for Jepson and a former passenger on his bus. Woods described Jepson as her favourite school bus driver.
"He was the nicest one there and I remember him because one day he came to pick us up and he was wearing a big clown wig and I never forgot it," said Woods.
The surgery will take place in Halifax on Tuesday.
At the age of 20, Jespon's was diagnosed with polycystic kidney, a hereditary disease that he received from his father. His mother also passed the disease onto his brother and Jepson passed it onto his two sons.
Kidneys affected by polycystic disease will enlarge and slowly lose function as time passes. Jepson's condition has worsened over time and he ws sent to a nephrologist in Moncton by his family doctor.
"About five years ago it just got to the level that my kidneys [function] were dropping down to about 12 percent left," Jepson said.
That resulted in Jepson doing home dialysis, which worked temporarily but complications arose after he underwent a series of surgeries which forced Jepson to begin travelling to Moncton for hemodialysis, three times a week. Fortunately a bed eventually opened up in the hemodialysis clinic in Miramichi.
Jepson has been driving a bud for 32 years, a job he will be able to keep and one Jepson, now almost 65, has no plans of retiring from.
"I hope to continue my job healthier and [more] vibrant than before."
It’s been a two year wait for Woods and Jepson to get the call telling them the transplant was a go.
"I just thought it was the most amazing thing to be able to give someone a quality of life back," Woods said. "It's the best gift you could possibly ever give someone."
Woods is a single mother of two sons and saw a shared post on Facebook created by Adeline Jepson looking for a donor. Adeline herself couldn’t donate because her blood type did not match with that of her husband. Their two sons were also unable to donate.
"That is initially what triggered me because I thought I'm O negative so I'm universal, so I can give to anyone," said Woods, who also gives blood every four months. So I said what the heck, the number was there, so I called the number and things got started."
A test was run to see if they could cross-match their blood and the doctors told Woods she was a perfect match to donate a kidney to Jepson.
"They told me the match was so close between us it looked as though we could have been [related] — they've never seen such a close match other than between people that were related.
"Pat and I are not related but we are a perfect match."
Jespon was elated by the news, "You talk about joy of life when you know somebody's stepped forward to give me a kidney."
The two have been patiently waiting for the call. When Woods received it days ago, the scramble to prepare began.
"The donor always gets the call first because they have to see if it fits into their time schedule," Jepson said. "My schedule is wide open."
Jepson was so ecstatic that he blew his late father’s bugle, “I blew the bugle.” Jepson said that is something he seldom does except for special occasions. Jepson hopes the success of this operation will mean he won’t have to continue with dialysis.
The long wait Jepson had to endure was caused by a shortage of doctors, making it difficult for a fast surgery.
"It's dragged out and it's mostly frustrating when you know you have a donor and then all of a sudden you have to wait and you wait," Jepson said.
Jepson and Woods are both determined to get the surgery done after all they’ve been through, "Nothing is going to stop us," said Woods.