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April 8, 2014
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Aspen ski instructor Pepper Gomes getting response on kidney donation request

A handful of people reached out to a Denver hospital on Friday to check into the possibility of being a living kidney donor to Pepper Gomes, the longtime Aspen ski instructor said Sunday.

Gomes, 69, said the people who contacted the donor coordinator at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver will be sent kits that will help to determine whether they are a match for his much-needed kidney transplant. For information about becoming a possible donor, call Kathryn O’Dea at 720-754-2164 or send an email to kathryn.odea@healthonecares.com.

Gomes recently was scheduled for surgery at the Denver health-care facility to receive a kidney from his daughter. But a late-hour discovery by doctors that the surgery might put her in harm’s way led to cancellation of the procedure.

If the hospital isn’t able to find a willing and matching donor within the next three months, Gomes will have to start dialysis treatments three or four times a week in Grand Junction, roughly a five-hour roundtrip drive from Aspen. Grand Junction has the closest dialysis facility, he said.

Humans only need one healthy kidney for normal living. Gomes discovered that both of his kidneys weren’t working properly in 1983 after he broke his shoulder while skiing. The degeneration of the organs has been a slow process, but lately has gotten to the point at which Gomes only has 12 percent function of his kidneys now.

Gomes leads an active lifestyle — in addition to being a ski instructor at Buttermilk Mountain, he also plays hockey. For that reason, a kidney from a live donor would be a better fit than one from a deceased person; the organ would last longer, with a better chance of functioning immediately.

The more people who get tested for a potential transplant, the better, Gomes said Sunday. Finding a match can be a difficult and lengthy process.

“We’re just kind of waiting,” he said, referring to himself and his wife, Susan. “The donor coordinator in Denver said she got some calls on Friday.”

A newspaper story in Friday’s Aspen Times resulted in inquiries from would-be donors to the hospital.

Susan Gomes said last week that she’s confident a living donor can be found.

“The Aspen community always comes together to help people in need,” she said.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Apr 8, 2014 10:32AM Published Apr 9, 2014 04:06PM Copyright 2014 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.