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NEWS | April 6, 2022

Retired Master Sgt. Gets New Chance At Life

By Airman Caleb Parker Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

After 15 long years of waiting, the inevitable finally happened—retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joseph Nemedy, 20th Contracting Squadron contracting officer, received the news that his kidneys were failing, and he needed to start dialysis immediately.

“I always knew the day would come,” said Nemedy. “It’s news no one wants to hear.”

Nemedy spent nearly two decades of his life taking medication and altering his lifestyle to keep his blood pressure under control. Despite his efforts, his kidneys weren’t going to survive, and if he didn’t find a donor, neither would he.

He spent months on the waiting list, hoping for a potential match. Just when it seemed as if there was no hope in getting a donation, a former coworker heard the news about his kidneys and took the chance to see if she’d somehow be a match.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Katelyn Lauzon, 628th Contracting Squadron contract specialist, immediately set up a meeting with her doctor. During her appointment, she discovered not only does the Air Force allow living donations, but they encourage members to do so. After finding out a donation would not affect her active duty status or deployment ability, she was determined to help Nemedy.

“That’s what really lit the fire in me,” said Lauzon.

With the support of her command team, Lauzon began initial testing to see if she was a match for Nemedy.

“Right away, medical said one of my kidney values was out of the safe range to support having only one kidney,” Said Lauzon. “They said I wouldn’t be able to donate.” 

This disheartening news didn’t discourage her from donating. Lauzon’s resilience kicked in.

The news motivated me to make healthier eating habits and a consistent exercise schedule,” said Lauzon. “I still wanted to donate.”

After months of dedication to her overall health and desire to help Nemedy, Lauzon went back to have her kidney levels reevaluated. Two weeks later, she finally received the news she was a match and was healthy enough to donate.

“I had to let the news sit with me for most of the day,” said Lauzon. “This had been exciting up until this point, but now this was real—I’m about to give one of my organs away to someone.”

After letting it set in, she picked up the phone and told Nemedy she was his match and would be donating her kidney to him.

“It was the first time my wife had ever actually seen me speechless,” said Nemedy.

They set the operation date for as soon as possible at the Medical University of South Carolina. On March 3, 2022, Nemedy was given the honor of ringing the donation bell, signifying a successful donation operation and a new chance at life.

"With living donations, you’re giving the gift of life back to somebody,” said Nemedy. "If someone is able to donate, I would definitely recommend being a donor because of how life changing it can be for a person in need."