Bill Kuche: A fighter worth fighting for

Photo courtesy of the Bill (William) Kuche Needs A Kidney Facebook page.

Bill has always been a fighter.”

This was the sentiment expressed by Penny Kuche as she reflected about her son Bill Kuche and his battle with stage five chronic kidney disease (CKD).

As a 30-year veteran firefighter and superintendent of the T1 Flagstaff Interagency Hotshots in Flagstaff, Bill Kuche has devoted much of his life to fighting wildfires while looking out for the welfare and safety of those around him, Penny Kuche explained in a phone interview.

“The challenge now is getting him to focus on himself,” Penny Kuche said.

Penny Kuche talked about how Bill Kuche has always strived to make the job he loves safer and more efficient for everyone involved and began to influence change, even as a rookie.

Bill Kuche proceeded to trim response times while focusing on keeping his team out of harm’s way as much as possible, and Penny Kuche explained that has been apparent in the reflections of so many who have worked by his side. Always the optimist with a great sense of humor, Bill Kuche takes on life’s challenges with a positive attitude and knows when it’s time to get down to business, Penny Kuche said.

The Mayo Clinic website describes CKD as the loss of the kidneys’ filtering abilities, which leads to a dangerous buildup of fluids, electrolytes and waste in the body.

“Kidney function that deteriorates to less than 10% of normal capacity results in end-stage kidney disease, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to sustain life,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

Although Bill Kuche has dealt with his kidney disease since he was diagnosed with glomerulonephritis as a child after contracting strep throat, the streptococcal virus, Penny Kuche said it was only recently that he took a turn for the worse. 

Glomerulonephritis is caused by the buildup of excess antibodies following recovery from strep throat resulting in the failure of tiny filters in the kidneys (glomeruli), which leads to a “rapid accumulation of waste products,” according to the Mayo Clinic website.

Grace Kuche, Bill Kuche’s oldest daughter, expressed in an email how valuable her dad is to his co-workers, friends and family.

“My dad always leads a positive life of health, fitness and unconditional devotion to his family, friends and colleagues,” Grace Kuche said.

She mentioned how her dad was not able to celebrate his 20-year wedding anniversary with his wife, Lyndsey Kuche, in February because he was hospitalized while going through dialysis.

As of March 11, Bill is preparing for arteriovenous (AV) fistula surgery as a safer means of receiving dialysis, Grace Kuche said. The Mayo Clinic reports AV as a complication with blood flow often caused by dialysis in those suffering with kidney disease.

“Normally, blood flows from your arteries to your capillaries, and then on to your veins,” the Mayo Clinic website stated. “With an arteriovenous fistula, blood flows directly from an artery into a vein, bypassing some capillaries. People who have late-stage kidney failure may have an arteriovenous fistula surgically created in the forearm to make it easier to perform dialysis.”

The Kuche family has been diligent in their research while getting the word out about Bill Kuche’s worsening condition and desperate need for a kidney.

“There are 107,000 people waiting for some sort of an organ transplant as of February 2021,” Grace Kuche said. “According to organdonor.gov, there are 17 people who die each day waiting for a transplant. Even the average wait time for a deceased organ donor’s kidney is approximately five years.”

This makes live-donor kidney transplants even more pressing as a way to shorten the wait time and need for dialysis, according to the Mayo Clinic website.

A GoFundMe page has been created by the Kuche family and as of March 13, it has raised $69,484 of the $100,000 goal.

“On our GoFundMe page you can also find more information on where our family is personally at during this journey and some other things we’ve learned about live organ donation,” Grace Kuche said.

More information about Bill Kuche’s condition and progress can be found on the Bill (William) Kuche Needs A Kidney Facebook page.

“We decided to reach out not only to tell everyone a bit of his story and find him a match, but we want to try to help the others on the list,” Grace Kuche said.

She also provided links for the UNOS living donations, Mayo Clinic live-donor, National Living Donor Assistance Center and Health Resources & Services Administration websites to help those interested in more information about kidney donation.

“The next step would be to fill out the questionnaire for the Mayo Clinic at mayoclinic.org/livingdonor to get started,” Grace Kuche said. “It is also a good idea to discuss with your own physician, letting them know you are considering being a live donor for someone who is in need of a transplant.”

March is National Kidney Month and many resources such as the National Kidney Foundation are working to create more awareness and share information regarding the need for kidney donations.