LOCKPORT – Most Christians understand that tomorrow is not promised. But Martin Peto wants a shot at it anyway.
The words on this Lockport’s man’s paperwork for Loyola University Medical Center hint otherwise: chronic kidney disease, stage 4; focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (scar tissue on the kidneys’ filtering units); and acute renal (kidney) failure.
Peto said his only real hope is a kidney transplant. But the waiting list for cadaver transplants is long, and Peto fears that list might outlive him. His other option is a live donor, Peto said, but his doctors told him recipients find those donors on their own.
That is easier said than done. Peto said he is an only child. His father is 72 and lives in central Illinois. Peto is praying a healthy human angel with type O or type A-positive blood will step up and help, if not for Peto or his family, then for love of God and altruistic compassion.
“Most people donate because a family member is sick or their child is sick. Well, I’m not so lucky,” Peto said. “I don’t have a family member that can donate to me.”
The faith walk begins
Peto said his health troubles began in December 2013 with flu symptoms. His doctor prescribed antibiotics, which temporarily cleared up the symptoms. When the next round hit harder, Peto said his doctor ordered a chest X-ray. That showed fluid around his lungs. Peto said he was hospitalized for double pneumonia.
Additional tests showed a mitral valve that needed repairing. At the time of the repair, Peto learned he had acute renal failure, most likely a side effect of his former high blood pressure, he said.
Years ago, after taking antihypertensives and losing weight, Peto said his blood pressure normalized and his doctor discontinued the medication. Peto now understands why high blood pressure is called “the silent killer.” His scarred kidneys bear the proof.
“I guess it did its damage before I knew or felt it,” Peto said.
But Peto refuses to silently wait for death – not when he has a family depending on him. Peto said he joined social media groups pertaining to kidney failure, as well as groups that support him in prayer. He started his own Facebook page: Find a Kidney for Martin Peto.
He’s reached out to media, with little luck.
“I beg and plead for someone to have a compassionate heart,” Peto said. “But there’s so many people with the same need.”
A friend made a sign for Peto’s vehicle that reads “Give Martin the gift of life. Be a living kidney donor,” along with Peto’s contact information. Peto even researched the cost of a billboard ad, knowing such an expense is not in his budget, as he is the sole provider for a family of four.
Along the way, Peto has had some nibbles, but no one who matched. Peto’s wife, Anne, was a good match, but a chemotherapy drug she had for breast cancer years ago disqualified her.
Fighting anxiety, trusting God
Peto said he’s thankful for God’s mercy in his 49 years. The mitral valve repair is working well, he said. Peto also said he’s never gone hungry. He’s always had a place to live and the means to support his family. Peto said he’s worked hard to mature and become a responsible Christian man.
“As we get older, we – hopefully – get a little more wiser, and we appreciate simpler things,” Peto said. “You learn what life really is about. Your goals and aspirations change. I hope I have matured, as a man, a father and a Christian person.”
Peto said he is not afraid to die, but he is afraid of leaving his family bereft, of them having to watch their incapacitated husband and father suffer. He cannot retire until he turns 50 in August. A less-taxing job, Peto said, isn’t possible.
“Who would hire me and pay me like my job has blessed me so far?” Peto said. “I have an associate’s in science from Joliet Junior College, and I served in the U.S. Army a long time ago. Let’s face it – I’m not a highly educated man, and I’m not highly experienced.”
Peto said Loyola periodically monitors his kidney function, an anxious roller-coaster ride. As kidney function decreases, his blood pressure will rise; his energy will drop; his body will retain fluid. In the midst of the storm, Peto said he prays.
“I pray that he can help me strong, spiritually, mentally, physically,” Peto said. “I know he has a plan for all of us. If you believe he created this whole world and everything in it, then you got to believe he has the power to change things. But what his plans are compared to what I want, well, I’m not sure.”
He can tick off the numbers with the precision of an accountant. Kidneys working at 17 percent. At 12 percent, Peto begins dialysis. His children are Emily, 12 and Neil, 11.
“Everyone one of us is going to die. When Jesus said, ‘That’s it,’ that’s it,” Peto said. “But I want to see my daughter and son grow up and graduate from college. I want to spend time with my wife holding hands and listening to music.”
Contact Martin and Anne Peto at 815-723-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin) or email@example.com (Anne). To contact the living kidney donor coordinator nurses at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, call 708-327-2696 (Lupe) or Veronica at 708-327-2719.