There are plenty of prayers and salutes on Fire Battalion Chief Ron Wetmore’s Facebook page today, the day he underwent surgery to donate one of his kidneys to a man he hardly knows.
“Sending you prayers and love,” one post reads.
“So amazing,” reads another.
“Proud to call you a friend,” several posts read.
Wetmore, who underwent surgery Tuesday morning, is in recovery and doing well, a friend reported at about 11 a.m. Tuesday.
“I never thought that I could be a living donor,” Wetmore said in an email the night before his surgery.
“I was always a donor on my driver’s license but you will never know if you will be able to help someone,” he said.
Wetmore was checking his phone one day when Sally McVey McCartin, someone he knew from high school, posted a message that a friend from her Hamden High School years, George Jerolman, needed a kidney.
McCartin had passed along a June 4 posting from her friend Carol Jerolman that read: “I never thought I would be asking for such a huge favor. Yesterday George and I went to the transplant center at YNHH. George needs a kidney so the hospital said even though he will be put on the list, use social media to spread the word. They said that there’s actually people out there that do these wonderful things even if they don’t know the recipient.”
McCartin had already donated one of her own kidneys to a friend, and she’s a big believer in living donors and their ability to save someone’s life.
“I found out that she had already donated her kidney to a friend from Hamden High School where we went,” Wetmore said. “I asked how I could help and seven weeks ago went to Yale New Haven to see if I was a match, and after two weeks of testing I was a perfect match to George.”
McCartin said she, Wetmore and Jerolman were all part of the Hamden High School hockey family. Wetmore is a little younger than she and Jerolman a little older, so while the two men may have only known each other in passing, they were part of a tight knit group of hockey players and parents.
Wetmore is known for helping others. In addition to being a city firefighter, he was a leader in an effort to build a playground on Gulf Street in honor of a Newtown victim.
“After helping with the Where Angels Play Foundation, I found I just like helping people and making this crazy world a happier place with love and kindness,” Wetmore said. “And after doing research on kidneys I learned we don’t need two and I have two good ones; George has two bad ones and will die if he doesn’t get a healthy kidney. It’s the right thing to do, and why not me.
“I will be sore for a few days but that’s not too bad for saving a life,” Wetmore said.
McCartin said at about 11 a.m. Tuesday Wetmore was out of surgery and doing well. She recalled that when she donated a kidney to her friend, who plans to visit Wetmore with her in the next day or two, that she was home within a couple of days. She said Jerolman’s recovery will likely be a little bit longer than Wetmore’s.
“I want people to know they can do this,” McCartin said. “It’s important. There’s a huge need for it.”
Wetmore was hired by the Milford Fire Department in 1991. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2007 and to captain in 2010.
“Battalion Chief Wetmore is also well known for his outstanding charitable work, most notably with the Connecticut Burn Camp,” according to a fire department release from 2013.
Wetmore was promoted to battalion chief in 2013.