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Badger donates kidney: Heidi Bader

From the Green Bay Press-Gazette:

For a Sturgeon Bay woman it was not a question of if she would donate a kidney to a stranger to save her husband, but when.

Heidi Bader of Sturgeon Bay signed up to take part in the University of Wisconsin Health Transplant Kidney Exchange Program. The national exchange program matches living kidney donors with recipients. Heidi and her husband, Scott Bader, are scheduled to undergoing separate operations at University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison this month. Heidi will be donating a kidney and Scott is set to receive a new kidney.

More than a month ago Heidi finished testing to see if she could take part in the program. Scott had previously been approved for a transplant. Due to the nature of the exchange, Scott can only receive a new kidney and Heidi can only give a kidney if two other people taking part in the exchange are a match.

Scott said he first became aware that he was suffering from kidney failure shortly after returning from a vacation in Mexico two years ago.

He already had only one kidney. The second kidney was removed during childhood for an unrelated medical condition. The couple tried a number of things, including a diet change, to avoid Scott having to go on dialysis.

“I fought and fought and fought,” he said.

Now Scott is in end stage kidney failure and has been undergoing home peritoneal dialysis three to four times a day.

He was hoping either his daughter Betsy or sister Beth Bader-Grunow could donate. While both were matches, additional tests showed doctors neither woman was a good candidate as a donor. In fact several people offered to be donors for him. Heidi was not a match for Scott.

Scott said he protested Heidi’s decision to take part in the exchange, but she placed her hand over his mouth and told him there would be no discussion.

The Baders were told the wait time for an exchange to happen is between 8 months to three years. About a month later a nurse called with the news.

During Scott’s illness the couple has drawn on their faith and the support of their community.

“God never gives you more than you can handle,” Scott said. “God must have a lot of confidence (in us).”

On Sunday, the couple was all smiles while talking about the upcoming operations. Heidi does not know the identity or the location of the person who will receive her kidney.

“Heidi is my hero,” Scott said. “She’s a lot of people’s hero.”

Heidi, the T.J. Walker Middle School counselor, will miss several weeks of work due to the recovery period. Scott, a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker, will also be missing work during his recovery. Family and friends, including Heidi’s daughter, Hannah Bremer, will be helping them once they are released from the hospital.

By sharing their story, Heidi hopes more people will consider signing up to be a living kidney donor.

Heidi looks at donating as a chance to do something bigger than herself.

“I have no fear at all,” she said of the surgery. “None.”

To find out more about the University of Wisconsin Health Transplant Kidney Exchange Program, go to

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