Helena man races against time for kidney transplant

Phil Drake

A 44-year-old Helena man is recovering from a kidney transplant following a emotional roller coaster series of events that includes a close-knit hometown theater, a busybody hairdresser, a big-hearted aerospace company and a family suffering through tragedy.

J.D. “Pepper” Petersen has IgA Nephropathy, also known as Berger’s disease, a kidney disease that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A builds up. According to online sources, it results in inflammation that can hamper the kidneys’ ability to filter waste from blood.

Petersen said in a telephone interview Wednesday from Tennessee that his kidney function was below 15% and was at the point of having to go through dialysis, which doctors had warned him about for years.

On May 11, his wife, Jamey, posted on Facebook that Petersen was in need of a kidney, saying he had Stage 4 kidney failure and was in dire need of a donor.

“His kidney health and situation has been degrading for several years and now the rubber meets the road for him,” she wrote.

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But on Wednesday, Petersen was released from a Memphis, Tennessee, hospital, sporting a new kidney and claiming

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