SABATTUS — Things are looking up for Mike Blais and Alice Laliberte.
Last November, Laliberte, a former Lewiston Police Department officer, was trying to save Blais’ life by donating a kidney to him, until tests revealed she had lung cancer.
The transplant surgery was canceled. After having part of her lung removed and undergoing chemotherapy, Laliberte is back to work.
Blais, 61, of Sabattus has a new donor, Sabattus school bus driver Kathy Pare.
Tests show she’s a good match. Surgery is tentatively scheduled for July 21 in Portland, Blais said.
Pare, 48, the mother of six, said she’s donating a kidney in memory of her grandmother.
“When I was 24 my grandmother, Laura Libby of Greene, was on dialysis. It was too late for her to get a kidney. I told her if I ever knew anybody in need of one, after I was done bearing children I would definitely do that.”
“Life is precious,” she added. “I love life and I love people. You can tell with most people if they’re genuine. Mike is genuine.”
Blais owned Dick’s Plumbing and Heating in Lewiston. He retired because of health problems. Five years ago he had a double bypass, followed by a stroke which left him practically blind.
“That’s the reason for the dog,” he said, motioning to a friendly yellow Labrador retriever guide dog named Gidget. “My eyes never came back. I can see contrasts, but fall down on curbs.”
He recovered well from the stroke, but needs a kidney.
Pare knew Mike’s wife, Sue Blais, because she works in the Oak Hill Middle School kitchen. Blais’ grandchildren used to be on Pare’s route.
She volunteered after reading about Blais and Laliberte in the Sun Journal. Compared to last year, Mike Blais’ health has deteriorated. He’s on the verge of needing dialysis, his kidneys barely functioning.
A healthy kidney filters waste in the body and regulates electrolytes and minerals, said nurse Roxanne Taylor, living donation coordinator for Maine Medical Center’s transplant program. Typically between 90 to 120 people in Maine are waiting for a kidney, she said.
Because his kidneys are low-functioning, “I’m actually poisoning myself,” Blais said.
Fluids build up in the body, creating painful leg swelling which can hurt the heart and vascular system, Taylor said.
But Blais is all smiles, grateful to have not just one, but two people willing to give him a kidney.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride,” he said. “Finding the right match is a one-in-a-million chance, and I’ve got two in my lifetime, Alice and Kathy.”
He’ll undergo tests Thursday to determine if a July 21 transplant will happen.
Meanwhile, Pare has had a lot of prodding and exams since she first volunteered, starting with giving 10 vials of blood.
She’s been through counseling to ensure she understands what she’s doing. CT scans and tests have “showed I’m in awesome health,” she said, especially her kidneys. Her blood type is a good match for Blais.
“It worked out,” she said.
Family members were initially anxious about her donating a kidney. Her son, Josh Ackerman, a truck driver in Livermore Falls, is going to be with her for the surgery.
After the surgery, “I’ll wake up feeling better,” Blais said. “I get leg cramps all the time. They told me it’s going to start improving right after I get it done, my body will start working better.”
Recovery time for Pare is expected to be four weeks; she’s confident it’ll be less. Recovery for Blais is expected to be four to six weeks.
His wife of 41 years, Suzanne, said Pare’s generous act “is terrific. I’m glad, because I can see him going down more and more.”
LEWISTON — Life has improved for Alice Laliberte – now Alice Cregg – since she found out last year she had lung cancer.
On June 29 she married longtime boyfriend Emanuel Cregg on the shore of No Name Pond at the home of her friend, Jeanne Raymond.
A former Lewiston police officer who’s a federal agent at the Canadian border in Coburn Gore, she was shocked to learn last year she had lung cancer. The cancer was only revealed because of extensive tests required for her to donate a kidney to Mike Blais.
In trying to save his life, “it saved my life,” she said, adding she never would have known she had lung cancer until it was too late. A runner, she never smoked. She had no symptoms.
Last year doctors removed the cancerous tumor and part of her lung. She went through months of chemotherapy to lower the risk of cancer returning. The last one was in March.
“I’d sit in that chair for four to six hours every other Wednesday for 16 weeks,” Cregg said. “St. Mary’s hospital, the fourth floor. I didn’t lose my hair.”
She’s back to work, back to running.
Meanwhile she reconnected with former boyfriend Cregg. After some reflection, both realized “how much we missed each other, that we wanted to spend the rest of our life together.”
On the wedding day the weather was perfect.
“I believe in the power of prayer. I prayed it would be nice if the loons made an appearance during the wedding.”
She considers loons special, a good sign.
As the pastor spoke, the loons appeared.
“They were literally in my sight of vision,” she said. “I think it was God’s way of reminding me he’s listening.”