Firefighter gives kidney to colleague in need

Capt. Peter Bruscato donated a kidney to his best friend, Capt. Kevin Theriault, who was diagnosed with Wegener’s Granulomatosis, a rare auto-immune disease


By Michelle Firestone
The Chronicle

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — Willimantic Fire Department firefighters consider themselves a family.

Like family members, they are there for each other, in good times and in bad.

Recently, one local firefighter was there during a bad time.

But thanks to the generosity of one Willimantic fire captain, his best friend is now expected to return to work next month after more than a year away from battling fires and saving lives.

Willimantic Fire Capt. Peter Bruscato donated a kidney to his best friend, Willimantic Fire Capt. Kevin Theriault, who was diagnosed with Wegener’s Granulomatosis, a rare auto-immune disease.

“Without him (Bruscato), I wouldn’t be getting back to work and normal life,” said Theriault.

He said initially, the disease “attacked my sinuses, lungs and kidneys” before he was given medication.

Their surgeries were on Sept. 13 at Hartford Hospital.

“ It’s pretty major surgery,” said Theriault, a third- generation Willimantic firefighter. “I was in for seven hours.”

Theriault, who grew up in Willimantic and has been a Willimantic firefighter for nearly 22 years, is eager to go back

to work.

Bruscato, who has been a Willimantic firefighter for almost 19 years, is going back to work this week.

“I’m jealous,” said Theriault.

Bruscato said he cares a lot about Theriault and after being diagnosed with the disease, his best friend, whom he described as an “avid outdoorsman,” did not have as much energy as he normally did.

He wanted to help.

“ It wasn’t taken lightly,” Bruscato said of the decision to donate his kidney, noting some family members did not want him to do so.

In fact, multiple Willimantic firefighters tested to see if they would be a good match for Theriault and two, Bruscato and Willimantic Fire Department Lt. Holly Swiney, were matches.

Bruscato was the best match of the two.

“Kevin’s my best friend,” Bruscato said, expressing his support for Theriault.

Willimantic Fire Department Chief Marc Scrivener said Bruscato being a match for a kidney donation was a “game changer.”

“ What he did was astonishing to me,” he said.

Scrivener said Willimantic firefighters are close and described fire service as a “brotherhood.”

“When one of our lives is threatened, it’s very concerning to all of us,” he said. “Kevin’s situation was very dire.” Some firefighters donated sick time to Theriault, who has been out of work for more than a year.

“ People can live many years on dialysis, but it’s not a high quality of life,” Scrivener said.

Scrivener said Theriault recovered from the surgery “incredibly fast.”

“I was only in the hospital for four days,” said Theriault.

Theriault said a kidney donor typically takes longer to recover than the recipient.

Copyright 2017 The Chronicle

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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