GUILFORD — Shawn Pushor was given little chance to survive after his birth 29 years ago, but today he lives to give hope to others.
Pushor, who was born with dysplastic kidneys, not only survived with the help of a kidney transplant, he also has fulfilled his dream of earning a degree in pharmacy.
He graduated on the dean’s list last Wednesday from the University of Connecticut.
“The pieces of the puzzle are just about complete for me,” Pushor said recently.
It was this time of year 29 years ago that his parents, Don and Eileen Pushor of Guilford, were told that their infant son had little chance to survive.
Eileen Pushor had no doubt that her third-born child was ill.
“He was lethargic,” and had cold feet, she said. She recalled this week that she had to snap the bottoms of her son’s feet to wake him.
After several visits to doctors over four years, Pushor’s condition was diagnosed at a Boston hospital. He had two small kidneys, but the smaller one worked better than the larger one.
For years only Pushor’s family knew of his condition. “I felt less of a person. I felt it was a handicap and I figured people would think less of me,” he said.
But when he was a junior at Piscataquis Community High School impurities began showing up in his blood tests. A tube was placed into his arm in preparation for dialysis.
His family and friends rallied around Pushor, giving him the support he needed.
After graduating from high school and while still on dialysis, Pushor was accepted into the University of Maine where he completed his preliminary courses. He also got married.
During those years, Pushor was constantly tired. His red blood cell count was 12-20, while a normal male’s count is considered to be 39-40.
“I was pretty much a zombie walking around and it affected my concentration,” he said. He would drive an hour to the campus, complete his studies, drive to the hospital for four hours of dialysis, then drive back home to his wife and stepchildren.
Though his health was deteriorating, he finished his preliminary courses in June 1988 and entered the University of Connecticut to get his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy.
Once Pushor went on dialysis, his name was placed on a transplant list. In June 1988, he received the call that an organ was available. Although he has had two kidney rejections and one infection, causing him to be hospitalized for about a month, he considers himself a healthy person.
“There were many days when I felt pity, but I’d walk through the hospital and see worse cases than mine,” he said. He credited prayer, his wife, Anita, his parents and his brothers and sisters with helping him to keep the faith.
His nurses were his other life-support system, he said.
“I felt my wife and stepson, Ryan, suffered the most. Mentally and physically, I couldn’t provide for them,” Pushor said of those years of dialysis and college.
“She was the breadwinner. I know it is the ’90s, but it still bothered me,” he said.
Pushor is cautious of the future. “You don’t take things for granted. It gives you more drive,” he said.
He is eager to take his state board examination, get a job and support his family. He also plans to give his dad, also a pharmacist, some much needed time off from the family business.
“It (Shawn’s life) sure has come full circle. It seemed like an unattainable dream,” said Pushor’s mother.