National Kidney Month: Local Man Needs Donor

Brian Bochman and his sister Lisa Vassalo have a tight bond that leaves Lisa worrying she could lose him. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

Editor’s Note: This story ran in the March 26th edition of The Toms River Times. We were told by Brian Bochman’s sister Lisa Vassalo that he will be getting the kidney as you can see from the post on her Facebook Page.

 

ORIGINAL STORY

OCEAN COUNTY – A 40-year-old man who recently relocated from Toms River to Whiting doesn’t need a particular month to understand the need to have at least one kidney doing its job.

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  “I have a very rare kidney disease,” said Brian Bochman, a 1999 graduate of Toms River East. “Neither one of my kidneys works, and I am on a couple of lists hoping a donor will come through for me.”

  March is dedicated to National Kidney Month, with education at the forefront. As it turns out, Bochman joins more than 37 million individuals who suffer from some type of chronic kidney disease.

  Like many people, Bochman initially had no idea something was wrong with his kidneys. His 2017 diagnosis took him by complete surprise and was a life-changing event.

  “My body blew up, and I hurt all over.” Bochman shared. “I couldn’t move at all.”

  A physical laborer in the construction field, he was shocked when he gained over 100 pounds in a short time. His feet and ankles more than doubled in size, while his hands swelled so much he couldn’t feel them.

  As the pain and discomfort overtook him, he sought medical care. During a weeklong hospital admission, Bochman learned the weight gain was related to excess fluids trapped in his body. The technical name for the swelling was edema – a symptom that something was not quite right.

  “It was basically 100 pounds of water weight,” said Bochman. “They gave me some medicine, and after a week in the hospital, I just kept peeing and peeing until 100 pounds of fluid were gone.”

  Doctors immediately suspected Bochman’s issues were related to problems with his kidneys. Within days of his hospital admission, he received a diagnosis of Type III MPGN. The acronym stands for membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis.

  Kidneys play various roles when it comes to sustaining the human body. The National Kidney Foundation reports that the two bean-shaped organs remove both waste products and excess fluid via urination. Meanwhile, the kidneys also serve as a filtration system, which shuts down for those suffering from MPGN.

  “I was told that the disease is pretty rare and generally happens to people with AIDS,” Bochman shared. “I don’t have anything like that, and the doctors said they figure there was only one other explanation.”

  When Bochman learned he could be genetically predisposed to the disease, he considered his family history. None of his relatives suffer from MPGN – at least, not yet.

  The diagnosis was hard for a young man with so much life to live. For starters, it meant transitioning from hard work to going on disability. Something also needed to be done to ensure the edema did not return.

  “I had a port put in to do peritoneal dialysis at home,” explained Bochman. “I hook up to a machine every night for eight hours and it works while I am asleep.”

  The average life expectancy for those on dialysis varies from person to person. Another consideration for renal failure is a kidney transplant to restore function without a machine.

  Bochman said he’s signed up for a couple of donor lists hoping that he’ll be a match for a new kidney. He’s optimistic someone will see his story on the National Kidney Register at nkr.org/bvq757 and consider giving him the gift of life.

  “Prospective donors don’t even have to be a match for me,” Bochman emphasized. “I move up on the list even if they donate a kidney to someone else.”

  His eyes clouded a bit as Bochman shared a recent personal tragedy that continues to affect him. COVID-19 hit his family’s household last year and infected him, as well as his parents, Lilly and George Bochman.

  Lilly, who was her son’s biggest supporter and caretaker, did not survive.

  Although she’s just one year older and doesn’t live with her brother, Lisa Vassalo does what she can to help him. The two are so close that Vassalo even named her 14-year-old daughter Brianna to honor him.

   Vassalo was faced with one of the most difficult decisions she’s ever had to make when she learned her brother needed a kidney.

  “I told Brian that because I have a daughter, I have to have two kidneys in case she ever needs one in the future,” shared Vassalo. “I have to have one for her, and he understood. If I gave Brian one, and she needed one, I would feel so bad.”

  Bochman said he doesn’t worry much about his mortality. He suggested he’s been through a lot already and just doesn’t think of what could be.

  As she listened to her brother, Vassalo whispered slightly.

  “I worry,” Vassalo said. “He’s still my little brother.”