From time to time Aimee Bultemeier will look at the surgical scar on her abdomen and wonder what the man who received her donated kidney is doing.
Is he celebrating an anniversary with his wife, stooping to help his daughter tie her shoes before kindergarten or Christmas shopping on the Plaza?
She may never know.
It has been 31/2 years since the 39-year-old St. Luke’s nursing assistant — motivated by nothing more than an altruistic desire to save someone’s life — volunteered to have one of her kidneys removed.
All she has is a first name: Patrick. The Midwest Transplant Network in Westwood, through which Bultemeier donated her kidney, cannot force recipients to reveal themselves. The group will pass on letters and do its best to provide updates if donors make official requests.
To date Bultemeier has received one card from Patrick. Short and sweet, it expressed eternal gratitude, said he was doing great and hoped to get to know her one day. She hopes the same thing.
“I would love to hear from him,” she said. “Because when I read that, it led me to believe that we would meet one day and that there is more to the story.”
In June she sent Patrick a note through Midwest Transplant Network. She heard nothing back.
“I don’t know anything,” Bultemeier said in a soft voice. “And some days I wonder. But I’m OK with not knowing, because that’s not why I donated. Just knowing I helped someone is enough.”
But she has heard plenty from people who admire her selfless act. After her story ran in The Star in February 2013, many other publications picked it up. Friends and strangers thanked her on Facebook and called her an inspiration. She heard from readers in Tennessee and Minnesota. She even got a letter from a contractor in Afghanistan who said he read her story in the military publication Stars and Stripes.
Then there is Jackson County Legislator Bob Spence, who introduced resolution 18151 in April of last year. It read, in part: “Be it resolved by the county legislature of Jackson County, Missouri, that the legislature hereby recognizes the selfless and lifesaving donation of Aimee Bultemeier, and wishes her much happiness and success in the future.”
All the legislators signed it. At a ceremony they all stood up and clapped for her.
Today Bultemeier does have a scar but no regrets. She is healthy and happy, and helping to spread the word about the need for organ donation. Currently, more than 1,700 people in Missouri and more than 600 people in Kansas are on organ waiting lists, according to the Midwest Transplant Network.
Bultemeier recently became a volunteer with the National Kidney Foundation. She will talk about kidneys and kidney disease at various places. What will she say about her experience?
“It’s the greatest gift I was ever able to give someone.”
To reach feature writer James A. Fussell, call 816-234-4460, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org