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An Officer and a Donor

By Sara Miller, University of Rochester (Condensed and republished with permission)

For the past two years, Lieutenant Dan Schermerhorn Jr. has undergone dialysis for eight hours, each night while he sleeps, to treat his kidney disease, IgA nephropathy. An officer with the University’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) for 23 years, Schermerhorn had dealt with this disease for 15 years, until doctors at UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial Hospital told him he needed a new kidney to save his life.

Schermerhorn’s search for a new kidney began in 2016 when he was placed on the kidney transplant waiting list, and he also joined the National Kidney Registry, a non-profit network that aims to match thousands of individuals in need with a compatible, willing donor. Compatibility doesn’t come easily; Schermerhorn’s father tried to be a donor to his son, but after being evaluated for a match, found he was not compatible.

In October 2017, Lieutenant Keri Stein sent an email to the entire Department of Public Safety (about 140 staff members), explaining Schermerhorn’s condition and the living donor process. Several colleagues responded by making appointments to be evaluated as possible matches

Peace Officer Paul Wlosinski remembers seeing the email from Stein.

“I always have in my mind, ‘never go through life saying you could have done something,’” Wlosinski says.

Wlosinski is an officer in the first platoon who over the years has worked directly with Schermerhorn on the force. Currently, he works overnight shifts, and Schermerhorn works days as part of new officer training and compliance certification programs. Wlosinski made an appointment to be evaluated as a match, and through the subsequent lab results and examinations learned that he could be a compatible and healthy kidney donor to Schermerhorn.

One day last spring, when the two officers overlapped at work, Wlosinski told Schermerhorn that he was being evaluated as a potential donor. In the months that followed, two separate teams of physicians, transplant coordinators, social workers, and others from the Division of Solid Organ Transplant at the University of Rochester Medical Center—one team solely overseeing the care for Schermerhorn, and one caring only for Wlosinski—determined that everything was looking good to move forward with a transplant this fall.

Peace Officer Paul Wlosinski, left, and Lieutenant Dan Schermerhorn Jr. of member institution University of Rochester Department of Public Safety. Schermerhorn had been waiting for more than two years for a kidney transplant when his colleague Wlosinski learned he was a match.

 “For me, it’s a second chance,” says Schermerhorn. “We’re like a band of brothers working here, and there’s a responsibility for him to watch my back, and I watch his. You just build that relationship. That’s how I feel now—it’s like he’s my backup. There’s a lot of things in my life that he’s impacting by doing this, and I’m very grateful for it.”

“It’s just something I want to do,” says Wlosinski, who is also a US Army veteran. “I’m just glad that I’m able to do something. I knew I had to get tested because I can. The donation of my kidney isn’t going to affect me in such great a fashion that I can’t. So, I can and I should.”

On October 30, 2018, the Medical Center’s transplant team successfully performed the transplant procedure. Both Schermerhorn and Wlosinski are recuperating well.

“After 36 years in law enforcement, I am always amazed how willing brother and sister officers are to sacrifice for each other,” says Public Safety Chief Mark Fischer. “Paul’s actions have touched my entire department, and will forever impact the life of Dan and his family. It’s truly inspirational.”

CREDIT: (University of Rochester photo / Sara Miller)

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