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Community rallies to find new kidney for North Attleborough football coach

By Max

When Leslee Murphy saw Bruce Pugh at the Century Game two weeks ago, she said that nothing looked out of the ordinary, so it came as a shock when she learned that the longtime coach is in dire need of a new kidney.

Pugh, a coach with North Attleborough Junior Football, is in Stage IV Kidney Failure and has been added to the transplant list. But with an expected wait time of three to five years according to the National Kidney Foundation, the community is spreading the word via social media to encourage people get tested to see if they are a match.

In typical Bruce fashion he was at the Century Game a few weeks ago, laughing, talking, taking photos with his former players,” wrote Murphy—who is the secretary for NAJF—in her Facebook post. “He was there to cheer them on as he had coached many of them. He can often be found working the chains at the NAHS games and just helping out wherever needed.”

Since Murphy’s initial post on May 5, it’s been shared more than 300 times. Many have offered words of support and well wishes to Pugh. Others have asked questions on the surgery. Among those that has commented is Danielle Antonetti, a transplant nurse at a Massachusetts hospital who has provided information on the transplant process, and recovery time.

In addition to her work as a nurse, Antonetti donated a kidney in 2014. She said the donor is usually in the hospital for two nights for the surgery, which is similar to appendix or gall bladder removal. The donor’s insurance covers the medical expenses. She said that recovery ranges between four to eight weeks and depends on how physical the donor’s job is.

My recovery, I was tired afterward and had minimal pain,” said Antonetti. “It was something I would do again in a heartbeat if I could.”

Antonetti said that extensive testing of potential donors is done, and they’re usually advised to avoid medications such as Ibupropfen and Aleve, as they’re secreted by the kidneys. Donors are also advised to avoid high-risk sports, as injuries could lead to kidney failure. In the event that a donor needs a kidney, they’re automatically moved to the top of the transplant list.

It’s something very gratifying and thankful to be a part of that process,” she said.

Coach Bruce Pugh

In 2010 Pugh was diagnosed with a kidney disease called Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). FSGS attacks the kidney’s filtering ability and leads to permanent kidney scarring and failure. It’s caused by a rare gene mutation. This spring, his condition declined to 17 percent kidney function classifying him at Stage 4 of 5. He needs an immediate living donor transplant. Because Pugh lives an active health-conscious lifestyle, he is an ideal candidate for successful kidney transplant, if he can avoid dialysis.

Pugh said that he was amazed by all the love and support that he has received from the community. He added that he’s usually the one providing the guidance and help to others.

I wish I was the one donating the kidney,” he said. “That’s where my heart’s always been in terms of giving.”

Pugh said that his condition isn’t causing him any physical pain, but that the effect is more mental. He lives a very healthy lifestyle, and said he’s not used to dealing with situations like this. Students at La Salle Academy, where his son is enrolled, have signed up to see if they qualify as a donor.

Others are spreading the word,” he said. “They have the power of the keyboard and the internet.”

Pugh has a blood type of O Positive. According to the Red Cross, this makes him a Universal Donor, meaning that he is a potential match to anyone regardless of blood type. However, the reverse is not true, and only a person who is O Positive or Negative could be a match for Pugh.

Murphy described Pugh as fully dedicated to his work as a coach, adding that he works with the NAJF’s board of directors. She said he has a coach’s drive to win.

Bruce loves this town, he loves these kids,” she said. “He works behind the scenes at the games. He’s kind of quiet. He likes to stay in touch with the other players he’s coached.”

Pugh has been coaching for 12 years, although the last one was lost to COVID. He said that football saved his life. Growing up in humble beginnings in New Jersey, he got the chance to play at Northeastern University on a football scholarship.

Since those days, Pugh has worked to give back to the community. He speaks at schools, telling students that they don’t need to be a product of their environment. As a coach, he often passes along life lessons to the players, such as the value of hard work and being respectful and honest to one another.

They need to have each others back and look out for each other,” he said. “They need to be positive role models for each other.”

If you’d like to learn more about the donor process, Beth Israel Hospital has a comprehensive site with information on kidney donations.

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