News >> Browse Articles >> Fire & Rescue News


After Years of Service to Others; FF Needs Help

After Years of Service to Others; FF Needs Help

Stock Photo

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via YellowBrix

September 30, 2010

BOWER HILL, PA – Bryan Pritchard of Collier has been a volunteer with the Bower Hill Volunteer Fire Department in Scott for a half-dozen years, giving his time and talents to his community. Now the community can return the favor.

A candidate for a kidney and pancreas transplant, Mr. Pritchard, 38, is waiting for the organs to become available. He has been told that the wait time for his type of double transplant surgery is, on average, two to three years, although he’s hoping, it doesn’t take that long.

The operation has a $250,000 price tag, of which his medical insurance will pay 80 percent. To help with his out-of-pocket expenses, his firefighter colleagues are holding a roast beef dinner from 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Bower Hill department, 161 Vanadium Road.

Mr. Pritchard became ill at age 9, when he awoke one June morning at his childhood home in Point Marion with back pain. His mother rushed him to the emergency room at Uniontown Hospital, where he passed out in the doorway in a diabetic coma.

He was flown by medical helicopter to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and has been taking insulin shots ever since.

A maintenance worker at Costco in West Homestead, Mr. Pritchard was diagnosed with Stage 5 chronic renal disease in August 2009. Three years before, his doctors detected some kidney damage and warned him of significant kidney difficulties “down the road.”

In August 2009, he began dialysis, a procedure that costs $20,000 a month. His insurance picks up the fee, but only after he pays his annual $5,000 deductible. Added to the financial drain is the cost of his medication, which runs another $2,000 a year, after his insurer pays for the bulk of the tab.

“Right now, I feel pretty good, but some days are better than others,” said Mr. Pritchard, who administers the dialysis procedure himself at home. "I have a permanent tube in my abdominal cavity that I attach to a catheter and the dialysis machine when I go to sleep at night. Eight hours later, I disconnect the catheter when I get up in the morning.

Currently on medical leave from the fire department, he gets around on crutches because of six diabetes-related toe amputations. He also goes five days a week to the Ohio Wound Institute in Kennedy for hyperbaric oxygen treatments.

He hasn’t worked at Costco since February and has no income other than what his wife, Melinda, brings home from her job at Quest Diagnostics in Green Tree. “I have applied for Social Security, but getting approved is a slow process,” he said.

Mr. Pritchard joined the Bower Hill department when he moved to the area because it was close by. He said he wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and become a firefighter. No longer able to answer fire alarms, he attends meetings and sits in as an observer during drills.

“After I get my transplants, I expect my diabetes problem will be solved, and I plan on rejoining the department as a volunteer fireman,” Mr. Pritchard said.

He plans to attend the benefit dinner. It will include a ticket auction and other drawings. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for age 11 and younger. Call: 412-221-3497.

To donate to an organ transplant fund in Bryan Pritchard’s name, mail check to PNC Bank, 3085 Washington Pike Road, Bridgeville 15017.

Read more: