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Features

Baran-Unland: Joliet man's fight for a kidney abruptly ends

Martin Peto stands in his home in this photo from a 2016 Herald-News story. At the time he was worried dialysis was imminent and was praying to find a live kidney donor. Peto never received the donor but he also never went on dialysis..
Martin Peto stands in his home in this photo from a 2016 Herald-News story. At the time he was worried dialysis was imminent and was praying to find a live kidney donor. Peto never received the donor but he also never went on dialysis..

On Labor Day, Martin Peto messaged me, letting me know he would soon restart his push for a kidney transplant.

He had an appointment with his nephrologist at Loyola in November. And he wasn't expecting good news.

Of course I told him to keep me posted. He had recently expressed "wanting to be proactive as possible and fight with whatever is left inside me."

I'd written a number of stories about this Joliet man and his need for a kidney transplant since 2015.

Peto's fight ended suddenly Friday morning. His wife, Ann Peto, called me late last night to share the details.

I was stunned. I had not expected Martin's death and neither had she. Martin just turned 54 on Aug. 25.

Although Peto was in chronic kidney failure, his kidneys held just above the need for dialysis, which he considered a miracle.

But Peto knew the decline would come. In July, his function dropped a little more, down to 13%. Once he hit 10%, he would need dialysis, he said.

When I talked to him last Monday, he was tired, really tired. But he still wanted to fight. In July, he expressed his desire to fight, not for himself, but for his family: Ann, as well as their children, Emily, now 16, and Neil, now 15.

During those early interviews, Martin was full of anxiety. He was anxious about dying while his children were young. He was afraid his health would decline before he could retire, but he made that milestone, too.

He was desperate to find a living kidney donor.

Over the last 22 years, I've written dozens of stories about kidney donors and recipients. It seemed likely that, one day, I'd write Martin's success story, too.

As the years passed and Martin relied more on his Christian faith, his anxiety mellowed. He realized a kidney transplant would bring new health challenges.

So Martin focused on helping others in kidney failure advocacy, too, through various groups on social media.

He found another job and continued to work, in kidney failure, until the pandemic began, Ann said.

And he often expressed how blessed he was that his kidneys, while not in the best shape, took a time-out in their decline so he could experience extra time with his family.

“Everyone one of us is going to die. When Jesus said, ‘That’s it,’ that’s it,” Martin said in a 2016 Herald-News story. “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.”

Denise M. Baran-Unland is the features editor at The Herald-News. Contact her at 815-280-4122 or dunland@shawmedia.com.

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