Police officer is still in need of a kidney transplant

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SUMMIT, NJ — Officer Karen Stenstrom Sauers is a 20-year decorated veteran of the Summit Police Department who currently serves as an instructor of the Emergency Vehicle Operators course at the John H. Stamler Police Academy in Scotch Plains. She also has polycystic kidney disease, an inherited disorder in which cysts develop within the kidneys, causing them to enlarge and lose function over time, meaning she needs a kidney transplant.

The Summit Police Department, Summit Fire Department, Summit PBA Local No. 55, Summit FMBA No. 54, Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad and local officials have been trying to raise awareness about Sauers’ need for a living donor kidney for some time now, including a press release to the media in September 2022. Unfortunately, she is still searching for that elusive donor.

According to the press release on Wednesday, Sept. 28, Sauers was diagnosed with this condition when she was 24 years old and is currently having her blood work monitored at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center. None of her immediate family or relatives are a match for a kidney transplant, so she needs a donor kidney. The center is tracking her condition to see if dialysis will be necessary prior to receiving a transplant, something it would avoid if possible.

Sauers has lived in Summit since she was 8 years old. Graduating from Summit High School in 1989, she earned a degree in education from Boston College, then began teaching in Newark’s public schools and volunteered for the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad. After watching the Twin Towers fall on Sept. 11, Sauers said she decided to enroll at Stamler Academy.

Sauers said there is currently no time frame for her to receive a transplant. The center is seeking a living donor, as this is the best option to extend her life. She is also on the list to receive a kidney from a recently deceased donor.

Despite her current circumstances, Sauers insists she is trying to keep a positive mindset.

“I am in good spirits and am trying to handle this situation one day at a time,” Sauers told LocalSource in a recent interview. “I know that I am well taken care of with the team of doctors that I am currently working with and I greatly appreciate the support of my family. My husband, Jon, has provided nothing but steadfast support and my three children, Andy, Tommy and Maggie are a constant source of happiness.”

Sauers also continues to work full time at the department, helping both new recruits and seasoned officers operate police vehicles under extreme conditions. Previously, Sauers served as a cardiopulmonary resuscitation/automated external defibrillator instructor, as well as a DARE Officer and Adopt-A-Cop, working closely with children in the Summit’s public schools.

“Officer Karen Sauers is one of the kindest and most positive individuals I know,” said Summit Police Chief Steven Zagorski in the press release on Wednesday, Sept. 28. “Throughout her distinguished career with the agency and now on this difficult journey, she has shown great strength and commitment. As colleagues and friends, we want to do everything possible to help find a potential donor.”

According to the medical center, the number of volunteers who have registered to see if they are a match for Sauers has been “overwhelming.” Although no match has been found, they are currently working with a few potential donors.

The medical center reported that a living donor would likely extend Sauers’ life expectancy for 10 to 15 more years.

“This process takes time to ensure a proper match, for … the donor and I to be compatible,” Sauers said. “So I am OK with the process. It is lovely to know that there are so many people on my behalf trying to help when they do not have to.”

For more information on kidney donation or to register as a potential donor for Sauers, visit cbmclivingdonor.org/. Include the code KARENSAUERS while completing the questionnaire, so that all potential matches are connected to her.

Photos Courtesy of Amy Cairns