SAYREVILLE — The new school year — and football season — have kicked off with a shared mission for Chris and Laurie Beagan. The Sayreville War Memorial High School football coach and his wife, a teacher at the borough's middle school, hope to spread the word about organ donation after their shared journey last year gave them a vivid first-hand perspective.

On June 1, 2018, Laurie learned that she was a perfect match to donate a kidney to her husband, who had been living for about 15 years with the diagnosis of IgA nephropathy (also called Berger's disease).

As explained by the National Kidney Foundation, IgAN is a kidney disease as well as an immune system response. "Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is a protein that helps your body fight infections," the NKF says, and "IgA nephropathy occurs when IgA protein gets stuck in kidneys causing inflammation."

IgA nephropathy also is among the most common kidney diseases, according to American Kidney Fund.

Chris Beagan's kidney function had been expected to deteriorate over time and despite undergoing treatments to help delay the inevitable, including chemotherapy and steroid treatments, by 2018 the need for a transplant had arrived.

Beagan, who has been head coach at his alma mater since 2015, said he had adjusted to feeling tired as his "new norm," along with longer recovery times from sickness or even a strenuous workout, all while going for blood work every three months.

He said in many states, below-20% kidney function is the level at which a qualified candidate can be added to an organ donor wait list. That's considered Stage 4, or "severe loss of kidney function," among patients with chronic kidney disease.

The Beagans, who have a teenage son and undergrad daughter, entered last fall with a measure of relief, knowing that a transplant was secured for when Chris reached that threshold of need.

On Feb. 6, eight months after the family learned of their in-house donor compatibility, Laurie and Chris underwent their respective surgeries at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston.

Their recovery went smoothly and Chris Beagan said the overwhelming support they felt from their longtime roots in Middlesex County still is "a very emotional thing to talk about."

They've both been in education for over 20 years, and have coached in communities including Monroe and his wife's hometown of Old Bridge. They said the outpour of support ranged from weeks' worth of meals cooked for their family, daily text messages asking what they needed and endless encouragement.

organ donation awareness bracelets at Sayreville HS (courtesy Laurie Beagan)

Preparation for the transplant also was eye-opening in terms of just how many of such neighbors, friends and community members were going through a similar situation.

The Beagans said even in their small community of Parlin, an area that spans parts of Sayreville and Old Bridge, there are 27 people who are on organ transplant waiting lists.

"We met so many great people ... that are still without donors that have been on dialysis for years, and they're managing—but how different their lives could be if someone would do what my wife did for me and be their hero," Beagan said.

 

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