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‘No greater gift’: Former Lake County board member receives kidney donation following cancer battle

Ingleside resident Bonnie Thomson Carter and Rob Kesler, 33, of Kirkland, who recently donated one of his kidneys to Carter. | Provided Photo

Former Lake County board member Bonnie Thomson Carter, who desperately needed a new kidney due to a cancer battle, recently received a new kidney thanks to a DeKalb County man.

Carter, a former Lake County board member and Lake County Forest Preserve president, received a kidney on March 11 from living donor Rob Kesler, 33, of Kirkland.

“I’m so thrilled we found a donor and this entire campaign was a success,” Carter said. “Going through this challenge has enriched my life and taught me so much. My relationship with God was strengthened during this. I knew he would provide for me as I trusted in him.”

Kesler said he “is spiritual but not religious” and “believes it was divine intervention” that put him in Spring Grove in front of a “Bonnie’s Gift of Life” sign on August 17.

After taking a picture of the sign, Kesler said he visited the website on the sign. Seeing Carter’s story, Kesler said he decided to get evaluated.

“I always had a good feeling about it, that it was going to happen for her this time,” Kesler said.

“When I passed the medical, physical and mental aspects of the testing with flying colors, I was so happy to tell her I passed,” he said.

Kesler, a father of two children, said it was a strange twist of events that put him in front of the sign.

Rob Kesler, 33, of Kirkland, pictured with his children, recently donated one of his kidneys to former Lake County board member Bonnie Thomson Carter. | Provided Photo

He said he never even knew where Spring Grove was but his work sent him there after he was placed on light work duty while healing from a vehicle crash.

“Had that person not slammed into me at my job placing me on light duty, I never would have been in Spring Grove to see that sign,” Kesler said.

“I have three reasons why I’m doing this: Life is too precious, there is no greater gift you can give another person and I don’t need two kidneys, so I have an extra one to give,” he said.

Carter was diagnosed with Lambda and Kappa Light Chain Multiple Myeloma in August 2019.

This aggressive cancer led to kidney injury, then kidney failure, putting Carter on dialysis.

Carter was placed on the deceased kidney transplant list, knowing it could take 5-8 years for a deceased kidney.

Doctors told her she had 3-5 years to live on dialysis. The only solution was to find a living donor for Carter while her health continued to deteriorate.

Her family and friends rallied together by building a website, scouring information across social media and putting up 250 “You can donate a kidney and save a life” signs across northern Illinois.

Carter said the effort led to 64 potential donors, with 22 eliminated and eight in reserve from tests being conducted at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

After about 8 months, Kesler was selected and determined to be a perfect match as Carter’s living donor.

“I am so grateful to have him,” Carter said. “He is so kind, he has a wonderful sense of humor, and he is armored with a devotion to help others. I’m so blessed he came into my life. He now becomes part of my extended family.”

Carter has since returned home after the successful transplant surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

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