Aspen's assistant police chief donates kidney

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ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — The giving spirit in the Aspen area continues unabated.

In early April, an Aspen Valley Hospital lab employee gave a kidney to an ailing co-worker who was on the verge of having to start dialysis. In mid-July, a longtime Buttermilk ski instructor with failing kidneys also received a transplant, thanks to a Roaring Fork Valley donor who wished to remain anonymous.

Another recent transplant of a live kidney from a local donor to a local recipient has been deemed a success. Marguerite Benjamin, daughter of Pitkin County Sheriff's Office investigator Bruce Benjamin, received a kidney from Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn on July 22. The surgeries were performed at University Hospital in Denver.

Unlike the other two kidney recipients, Benjamin had started dialysis treatments. The closest dialysis facilities to the Roaring Fork Valley are in Grand Junction, which meant that for several months Benjamin had to drive at least four hours round-trip, three days per week, for medical attention lasting around three hours.

Though the dialysis was time-consuming, she said she didn't mind the actual procedure.

"When I got home, I was worn out," Benjamin said. "Between driving and dialysis, it takes all day."

Benjamin was a Basalt High School junior in early 2012 when she learned about her situation. She said she had to postpone her senior year in order to deal with her failing kidneys. She would later complete her education at a Glenwood Springs high school.

"We didn't know and we still don't know the cause of the kidney issue," her father said. "A doctor in Grand Junction said she would need dialysis soon. He sent us to University Hospital for a work-up and to get on the list for a deceased person's kidney. The waiting list was five years for her blood type."

Often, family members donate kidneys to their relatives. Bruce Benjamin said he was willing to provide one of his kidneys, but he was the wrong blood type, and his age was a factor. Kidney donors need to be younger than 50.

Though Linn and Bruce Benjamin work out of the same building — the Pitkin County Courthouse — social media played a big role in linking Marguerite Benjamin with Linn. Her father said he was at a Sheriff's Office holiday party in December 2012 when he mentioned his daughter's health issue to emergency dispatchers. They posted an item about it on Facebook, and Linn saw it soon after.

After Linn proved to be a match in the spring of 2013, there was a waiting period. Marguerite Benjamin's health needed to stabilize, and her father was waiting on insurance approvals.

Linn admits he was nervous during the waiting period, but he always wanted to go through with the donation. His sacrifice "meant the world to me," Bruce Benjamin said. His daughter nodded in agreement.

"I'm not a hero," Linn said, adding that he was willing to speak publicly about his donation because he wanted to encourage others to be tested as potential kidney donors.

"This was rewarding for me," he added. "It's an honor to be a part of this."


Information from: The Aspen Times,

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