Dan Hust | Democrat
DEPUTY COUNTY TREASURER Nancy Buck donated a kidney to County Treasurer Ira Cohen.
She (literally) gave
at the office
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Nancy Buck spent her entire life urging people to donate their organs.
Her driver’s license was signed, her family prepped for what medical workers would do with her body parts after she died.
If the Roscoe resident and deputy county treasurer could help someone else live, then they could take whatever they needed.
Turns out she didn’t have to wait for death’s knock.
Life came calling first.
Her boss, Ira Cohen, had been diagnosed with renal disease. His kidneys were slowly shutting down, and without either dialysis or a transplant, he’d die.
Cohen’s family was willing to donate, but no one had a match. The doctors at Albany Medical Center put him on a list for a cadaver kidney, and dialysis began looking like a real possibility.
So Buck made the offer and Cohen immediately rejected it. The fight stretched on for some time, Cohen arguing that she shouldn’t endanger her life, Buck insisting giving him one of her kidneys was the right thing to do.
“I won the argument,” she dryly recalled last week, a hint of a smile peeking through. “That’s why we are where we are today.”
“Today” was Thursday, the first day both the county treasurer and his deputy had been together in the office since early August.
Their arrival was much the same as their departure: wishes of good luck, hearty hails of hello, deep respect and awe from a county government center workforce immensely proud of them both.
For now, they’re only back part-time. Though neither had any delusions of how complicated and difficult the process would be, their recovery may take as long as the rigorous physical and psychological screening process they endured prior to the August 18 surgeries.
With 40 percent of willing donors rejected for a variety of issues, Buck, 48, was pleased to discover she was in such good health that she was considered a perfect candidate.
But as rare as that accolade is, rarer still is the complication that resulted from the surgery. A tiny hole developed in her abdomen, causing lymphatic fluid to fill her lower torso and forcing a return to the hospital.
After two week-long stays, doctors finally determined she was one of about eight people nationwide who had ever suffered such a complication. They’re keeping her on an IV until the hole heals itself.
Despite that, Buck doesn’t regret what she did, not for one moment.
“You know when it’s the right thing to do,” she remarked.
Cohen wasn’t so sure at the time, not forgetting to tell her “thank you” as she was wheeled away from him just prior to surgery.
The 63-year-old still feels some guilt over Buck’s post-op issues, though he knows that while he will always have to take immunosuppression drugs to keep his body from rejecting the kidney his coworker and friend will likely be fully recovered in another month or two.
“I have very mixed emotions, particularly because I did so well,” he remarked, noting the new kidney began functioning as soon as it was “installed.” “I feel tremendously better than I have for years. It’s a great thing, but I’m not celebrating till we are all better.”
Buck harbors no grudges and is pleased to know she saved not just one but possibly two lives. A nurse told her that the donation meant another waiting transplantee could be moved up a very long list.
“I’ve said this 100 times: how awesome it is to save a life when you’re alive,” she said.
On that point, her boss finally isn’t arguing with her.
“We were close, but we’re even closer now,” he related with obvious affection.
That goes for their families as well, who have been there for one another throughout the process. Cohen’s daughter has even been inspired to sign up as an organ donor.
Cohen’s two “original” kidneys will soon start to shrivel, eventually dying. But thanks to Buck, kidney #3 should last the rest of his now-renewed life.
“It’s overwhelming,” he remarked, “to have somebody make that offer.”
That subtle smile suddenly reappeared on Buck’s face.
“I kept the better one,” she quipped.
Nancy Buck will be honored by the Sullivan County Democratic Committee with the Humanitarian of the Year Award at its annual Jeffersonian Dinner next month. Date, time, location and ticket information will be posted in a future issue.
To learn more about organ donation, log on to www.donate life.net or call Laura Quinn at 518-262-5606.