Published September 23. 2013 4:00AM
Groton - Brad Vernet always knew this day would come.
The longtime West Side Middle School science teacher was born with one kidney and 23 years ago was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.
Since then doctors have monitored the 48-year-old Vernet but now his kidney function has dropped to just 14 percent, which means he could be forced to begin grueling dialysis treatments in less than a year.
So he and his supporters have launched an effort using social media to find someone to donate a kidney to him.
"Like any upsetting news you're in disbelief at first," he said one night last week while he watched his son Martin at soccer practice. "But after a few weeks you realize it does no one any good to feel bad about it. You have to go on."
Vernet said his doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston has told him he's not sick he just needs a new kidney.
"Overall, I'm doing pretty well. There are other people much worse of than me," he said. "It's serious but I have to keep a perspective and stay positive."
Vernet, who lives in Mystic with his wife Katy, a teacher at Claude Chester School, daughter Emmye and son Martin, is a graduate of Ledyard High School.
He said that he hadn't had any symptoms until this spring when he began feeling tired as his kidney function dropped.
Still, he and a friend completed a four-day, 220-mile, bike ride to Vermont. He rode slower than normal but was able to finish.
These days he said he's often asleep by 8 p.m. and the fatigue makes him mentally "a bit foggy" at times.
Vernet said his doctors can not predict exactly when he will have to begin dialysis if he can not find a donor. Currently there is an estimated five-year wait to get a kidney through the national organ donation registry. Registry kidneys come from cadavers and do not last as long as a kidney from a living donor, so that is why Vernet is seeking someone to give him one. If he waited for a kidney from the national registry, he would have to spend several years on dialysis which could cause other medical problems. He hopes to be able to find a donor so he can have a transplant before having to go on dialysis.
He said his wife began by emailing friends about his search and recently a Facebook Page called "Help Find Brad a Kidney" has been launched. The Connecticut Education Association wrote about him on its blog and there have been stories about him in various media.
As for his students, he said he has not said anything to them yet about his disease because he first wants to let their parents know he may be out for a while if a kidney becomes available for transplant.
Those who would like to donate a kidney have to go through an initial two-step process which involves a telephone interview and a blood test kit sent to them by the hospital. Those who meet the initial criteria move on to more testing to see if their tissues are a match with Vernet. The better the match, the less chance for rejection.
It is a confidential process and Vernet does not know who has agreed to be tested unless they tell him. He said the hospital will only tell him when there is a good match but otherwise does not discuss possible donors.
Vernet said Sunday that once he get a transplant he would like to shift his efforts to helping others who face the same process.