The ultimate bond: Local transplant recipient gets kidney from neighbor

by Mary McKenna

Chances are, if you have a good rapport with your neighbor, you’ve found yourself having to borrow a tool or beg an egg when you’ve needed one and kindly returned the favor. But to give a vital organ? Now that’s a whole new level of neighborly love, and two local residents can’t say enough about it.

Hudson resident Pete Fleming bids farewell to the Cleveland Clinic and the kidney disease that held him back after a neighbor’s organ donation.

Diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, Hudsonite Pete Fleming was told he had two options as his kidney function declined – prepare for dialysis or start shopping for a new kidney. Like most patients with end-stage renal disease, he began by identifying exactly what kind of dialysis he’d undergo while concentrating efforts in a “big push” to find a live donor who’d be willing to give him a kidney, according to Fleming.

There are different kinds of dialysis, none of which are “pleasant or enjoyable or good for your lifestyle,” he said. Fleming’s doctor informed him that transplantation, particularly from a live donor, not only resulted in more successful grafting than deceased-donor transplants but also offered the best long-term survival rate for him as a recipient.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages the list of everyone across the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant, approximately 93,000 people are currently in line for a deceased-donor kidney. All are facing about a four-year wait. Obtaining a kidney from a live donor reduces that wait, but as Fleming put it, “it’s not that easy, and live donors are rare.” Even if you can find one whose kidney profile is a match, there’s a battery of tests including “X-ray, CT scan, MRI, stress test, EKG and more” that donors must pass to ensure optimal results.

Two potential donors whose blood type matched his and were willing to undergo the scrutinizing donor evaluation process on his behalf “were turned down,” Fleming said.

“I was getting a little worried,” he confessed. “I never gave much thought about a donor getting rejected. I always thought if someone said they were gonna give and it’s the right match, then they’ll give. But it’s such a physical test they put you through, and some small, little thing can interfere.”  

The Fleming and Ricard families give thanks at Christmas for answered prayers.

Fortunately, it was about that time when Frank Ricard came into the picture. Ricard, a close neighbor and friend, was out walking his dog when he ran into Fleming’s wife, Molly, who lamented that her husband’s short list of potential donor candidates was unfortunately growing shorter.

The two families live near the schools, off Glen Echo Drive. And not by coincidence, it was the Flemings that alerted the Ricards to a Bauley Drive home for sale years earlier.

“This was the first I’d ever heard that Pete had a situation,” said Ricard. “Molly mentioned that Pete was O positive. Then we got home, and I thought, ‘I’m O positive. What do I need to do?’”

It wasn’t long before Ricard began the initial screening process to become a live donor for Fleming, with mixed results. While his blood was compatible and the surgeon raved that his kidneys were “amazing,” Ricard said he still needed to lower his blood pressure and cholesterol to qualify for organ donation. His doctor suggested he could achieve these goals with a little weight loss.

“I knew Pete was in need,” said Ricard, who was especially motivated to lose the necessary weight as he began what he called “an intermittent fasting program,” coupled with his usual running routine over the next several months.

“I did lose, amazingly, 10 pounds in a week, and then it took me a couple more months to lose another 10 pounds,” he said. “So, I’m 20 pounds lighter, and I contacted the Cleveland Clinic and they said your cholesterol numbers are good, but your blood pressure is still a little high.”

Frustrated but undeterred, Ricard expressed a continued desire to “up the level” of commitment and went on, remarkably, to lose an additional 10 pounds.

Fleming concluded that it was really Ricard’s determination that made the transplant possible. On August 16, 2022, both men were admitted for the surgery that would prove to be “the poster child transplant, almost perfect,” according to Fleming, who wasn’t in any pain following surgery and whose kidney function immediately improved.

“It was like it had gone 20 years back in time in one day from Frank’s kidney,” he said. “It was amazing.”

Ricard was as astonished as Fleming at the ease of the procedure and how incredible he felt afterward.

“I’ve had blood donations that have felt more complicated than this,” said Ricard, who admittedly bears no scar post-surgery and suffered minimal, temporary discomfort at the site of the incision. He said he was released early after the procedure and went running later that same week.

“Because I lost 30 pounds to do this, I feel better now than I did prior to giving my kidney. So that’s what I say to people. I recommend it for everyone.” Ricard said.

Fleming, likewise, expressed an overwhelming sense of satisfaction at having the ordeal behind him and knowing it was such a success.

“It’s been life changing for me, from the direction I was going to the direction that I’m going now,” he notes.

He’s now able to travel abroad to visit his daughter, son-in-law and only grandchild living in England, something Fleming said he wouldn’t have been able to do on dialysis.

“It’s an incredible example of ‘love your neighbor’ for Frank to do what he did,” reflected Fleming. “There’s really no way to give someone enough to say thanks.”

Both men agreed they’ve mutually benefitted from the experience, and “highly promote” kidney donation. Even with the grueling exam and weight loss gauntlet, Ricard said he’s grateful for the opportunity, however hard-earned, not only to have received “a complete physical free of charge” but also to have been in a position to help.

“I guess bottom line is if you’re helping other people, a little inconvenience isn’t that big of a deal, right? I can’t speak enough about it if it helps other people decide to do living donation,” he said.

“Obviously I’m a great proponent of it,” agreed Fleming. “It changed my life!”

For anyone interested in learning more about organ donation or how to become a registered donor, visit

Featured Photo: When Pete Fleming first learned of the kidney disease he’d inherited that would eventually land him on a transplant list, he never guessed a determined donor – whose organ was the ideal blood and tissue match – would be found just a street away from his Tyre Drive home. Fleming (l) stands with kidney donor Frank Ricard shortly after the August 22 procedure that links these neighbors forever. Photos submitted.