North coach to get kidney from longtime friend

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North Attleborough Football Coach Bruce Pugh will undergo a kidney transplant on Dec. 20, following months of North Attleborough residents getting tested to see if they are a match. Courtesy photo
Coin show Sunday November 20th at 9:00 AM 52 Bulfinch street

By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

After months of searching, Bruce Pugh is getting a Christmas gift like no other.

The North Attleborough resident and longtime football coach is set to undergo a kidney transplant on Dec. 20 at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. In 2010 Pugh was diagnosed with a kidney disease called Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). Caused by a rare gene mutation, it attacks the kidney’s filtering ability and leads to permanent kidney scarring and failure. In the spring of 2021, his condition declined to 17 percent kidney function, classifying him at Stage 4 of 5.

Leslee Murphy, a friend of Pugh’s, shared this news on social media in May 2021 and more than 130 people, many from North Attleborough, got tested to see if they were a match.

Pugh’s Type O Positive blood meant that while he is a universal donor, only someone with the same blood type could donate a kidney, and none of those who got tested were compatible donors. In addition, he has aggressive white blood cells, which further complicated the process.

Luckily, there was another option.

 

Kidney swap

According to the National Kidney Registry, when a direct donation can’t be done, there is the option of a paired exchange, which involves two living donors and two recipients. If the recipient from one pair is compatible with the donor from the other pair, and vice versa, the transplant center may arrange for a swap–for two simultaneous transplants to take place. Bill McDavitt, a longtime friend of Pugh’s, offered to be part of the donation process.

“He’s (Bruce) the type of person who would do anything for anyone, and it was an easy decision to make,” he said.

Pugh said he’s ecstatic about the news, saying it’s “prayers and blessings come true.” He described the support from the community as unreal. He and McDavitt have known each other for 15 years, meeting when their children went to kindergarten.

“We’re going in on the 20th and will be discharged on Christmas Day—what a great Christmas present,” said Pugh. “He’s not just saving my life; he’s saving someone else’s life. I’m overwhelmed, I’m overjoyed.”

In preparation for the surgery, McDavitt and Pugh will need to quarantine to ensure they don’t get sick. This means masking at all times and limiting their time outdoors. Pugh said that as time passed and no donors were found, he became discouraged.

“I was very depressed and I never lost hope or faith,” Pugh said. “It was just a mental thing.”

 

Community support

Murphy said she wasn’t surprised by the outpouring of support, both from those that got tested or the hundreds of well-wishes. Pugh has coached North Attleborough Youth Football for 15 years—even though his own children weren’t in the program—and continued to be involved after.

“When I first got the call that he needed the transplant I burst out crying,” she said. “I can’t think of a better family for this to happen to. He’s such a great guy. When he finds out someone’s struggling, he always helps.”

Murphy added that the response speaks volume of North Attleborough, recalling rallies held for two children in the football program who underwent treatment for cancer.

Once the surgery is done, Pugh said he’s going to enjoy life, seeing this as a renewed opportunity. In the recent months he’s been very tired and looks forward to getting back to work at Cisco as a customer success executive.

“Thank you to the community,” he said. “Without their support and Bill stepping up, this wouldn’t be possible. They all stepped up to bat for me.”