Daughter Ends Man's Search for Kidney

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As long as Rachael Hegmon, 24, can remember, her father has been sick.

"I've always wondered how can I help him or what can I do to help him?" she said.

But after her father, Aaron, a diabetic of 22 years, was told he needed a kidney transplant two years ago, Rachael knew what she could do.

After a lot of shots and drawn blood, Rachael proved to be a perfect match for her father, a finding that could save his life.

Even so, Aaron Hegmon was hesitant at first to accept.

"I didn't want to take a kidney from a young person and then years later they need a kidney for their child and it wouldn't be available," he said.

But for Rachael, the decision to donate was a no-brainer.

"If I elect not to do it and nobody else does it, he dies," she said. "I just always told him, 'I'm willing to donate for you. You don't have to go through all these people. You have someone right here.'"

Rachael and her mother Pam showed their support for Aaron at the Greater Lansing Kidney Walk. Fifty teams and hundreds of people gathered at Cooley Law School Stadium for a 1.5-mile walk to raise money to prevent kidney disease and improve the quality of life for those living with it.

"It's just to make people aware that there are so many people with kidney problems," said Robin Shadduck not just people that need a transplant, but people undergo dialysis for any reason. It's just important."

According to the National Kidney Foundation, 26 million American adults have chronic kidney disease, including more than 900,000 in Michigan. More than 2,500 Michiganders are waiting for a lifesaving kidney transplant.

Aaron Hegmon knows how difficult it can be to get off that waitlist.

"I thought that'd be easy," he said. But after reaching out to family, close friends, and his church, Aaron was only able to find a handful of volunteers and one partial match.

"It was hard," he said. "I didn't know where I'd get one from."

His daughter says she was happy to volunteer.

"It's just something small compared to what he has to do or has been through," she said. "It's just something small I can do to help."

Aaron should get his transplant by the end of the year. But even so, he says, he will need a replacement in six years.

But there's no doubt in his mind he wants to stick around, he says.

"That's my little man," he said, pointing to a picture of him and his four-year-old grandson. "That's who I'm living for right now."