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Life Goes On Newsletter: John & Nikki Kurtovich

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

For John Kurtovich, Secretary of State’s Speakers Bureau, the thought of helping his daughter, Nicole, when she needed a kidney was second nature to him. John, 73, presents the Rules of the Road classes at mobile unit Super Senior classes in the Chicago area.

icole Kurtovich, in pink, Plainfield, received a kidney in a paired kidney exchange with her father, John Kurtovich, Chicago.

During the classes, John discusses organ/tissue donation, encouraging class participants to register as donors. When his daughter Nicole, now 33, was experiencing kidney failure, John was tested to see if he could be her donor. To their delight, John matched Nicole.

Nicole had been told from age 13 that her kidneys were starting to fail. She took medications to keep them working, until age 26 when they further deteriorated. Nicole started dialysis when she was living in Peoria. She moved back to Chicago to be closer to family due to her decline in health. Nicole was diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis, a form of kidney disease, but had no history of kidney disease in her family.

Kidney recipient Nicole Kurtovich (left) received a kidney in a paired kidney exchange with her father, John Kurtovich (center in blue shirt). They participated in a Walk for Kidneys, put on by the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois.

At the last minute before the scheduled surgery between John and Nicole, their doctors asked if they would be willing to participate in a paired kidney exchange with another pair of individuals who were incompatible with each other — John would donate to another individual and another person would donate to Nicole. John and Nicole agreed to the swap and looked forward to saving another life. Nicole received her kidney Nov. 26, 2018, at the University of Illinois (UI) Health in Chicago from a stranger, while John donated his kidney to another person in need. Two lives were saved by this four-way kidney exchange.

Nicole has had no complications from the surgery, which was more than three years ago. “It is absolutely life changing,” Nicole said. “I didn’t feel well when I was going through treatment and dialysis was hard, in fact the most difficult part. The difference is amazing.”

“Any father would do what I did. If they had the physical ability to do it, they would,” John said. “I’m amazed at how easy it was to do. It affected my life for just the few days in the hospital. Organ donation can be done by most of us with a little down time — a small inconvenience when you look at the greater picture of saving a life.”

Both John and Nicole support donation whenever they can. They have participated in the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois’ Walk for Kidneys in the past and plan to continue promoting donation.

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