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Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: Hollywood takes notice of city woman's journey toward a new kidney

By KATIE McQUAID
February 16. 2018 9:45PM
Riley Crowder and her mom, Peg, hiked 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail just three months after Riley's kidney transplant. (COURTESY)



Riley Crowder’s goals:

• Raise $10,000 to rent two Manchester billboards and spread the word about paired kidney exchange. Check.

• Find someone to enter the paired kidney exchange. Check.

• Get new kidney. Check.

• Hike part of the Appalachian Trail. Check.

• Resume career as child life specialist. Check.

The last couple years have been an incredible journey for Riley. I first wrote about her quest to find a new kidney through the paired kidney exchange in May 2016. About a year later, on June 1, she received a kidney from a fellow 2008 Central High School graduate. And just three months after the operation she and her mom, Peg Crowder, hiked 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail in seven days.

“I can’t emphasize enough how amazing I feel,” Riley, now 28, recently wrote to me. “I have a boatload of energy, I am looking forward to the future, and am so excited about this new life I have been given.”

It sounds like a story right out of Hollywood, and on Tuesday, Feb. 27, it will be, when Riley’s story is featured on an episode of Lifetime network’s “This Time Next Year.”

Riley Crowder (front) and her mom, Peg, hiked 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail just three months after Riley's kidney transplant. (COURTESY)

The show, hosted by Cat Deeley, “follows the emotional journeys of ordinary people as they embark on extraordinary missions to change their lives, over the course of just 12 months.” 

The producers of the show learned about Riley through my first column about her and contacted me.

I told Riley about the opportunity, thinking there was no way she would agree to do it. What if she didn’t find a donor? What if the new kidney didn’t work? 

But Riley, whose kidney troubles began at age 4, has never been daunted by life’s “What if’s.” So she and her mom flew out to Los Angeles in November 2016 where Riley sat on a stage with Deeley and committed to find a donor and get a transplant “by this time next year.”

Oh, and hike part of the Appalachian Trail. (For Riley, the first two goals weren’t challenging enough.) 

Riley, who was in between dialysis treatments, said her brain and body were so full of toxins at that point that her memories of the first interview are very fuzzy. 

“But I do remember stating my goals and the steps I was going to take to achieve them. I was sent home and told to make video diaries weekly of my progress,” she said. 

A year later Riley and her mom flew back to L.A. to report on her success. They were shown some of the footage.

Manchester’s Riley Crowder, left, and her mom Peg appear on the Lifetime network show “This Time Next Year,” which chronicles her journey toward receiving a new kidney. (Courtesy)

“The footage began with a clip of me crying because I found out a potential donor was not a match. This brought back feelings of sadness and also was a reminder of just how depressed and anxious I truly was during that time,” she said.

Today, “depressed and anxious” appear to be in Riley’s rearview mirror. She is in top physical shape and recently accepted a job as a Certified Child Life Specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Nevada at University Medical Center

Riley admits she was skeptical she could accomplish everything she set out to do on “This Time Next Year.” 

“But as you know, I was determined to at least give it my all, and it happened. It is absolutely amazing what you can accomplish with support, hard work, and determination,” she said. 

And she offered words of wisdom for other people with a difficult road ahead: “You are not defined by what you experience, but by how you deal with the experience. Lastly, live your life in the moment, you never know what might happen tomorrow.”

Riley’s episode airs this Tuesday at 10 p.m.

Riley Crowder's journey through kidney failure and transplant and onto the Appalachian Trail will be featured Feb. 20, 2018, on Lifetime television. (COURTESY)

Granite Leaders

I was honored to participate in a discussion about news media at a recent Granite Leaders program at Families in Transition.

Granite Leaders, a program of the New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness, builds leadership skills within the homeless and formerly homeless community, giving them tools and skills they need to become advocates for our state’s homeless.

The students I met were part of the third group of the free, six-month educational program. Upon completion, graduates become part of a network of skilled leaders focused on improving the quality of life in communities across New Hampshire.

Cathy Kuhn, director of the coalition, said there have been 23 program graduates who go on to advocate for their community in different ways, whether that’s testifying before the Legislature, writing a letter to the editor or joining a board or committee.

You can learn more about Granite Leaders at www.nhceh.org/graniteleaders.

Do you have something positive to share with The Scene? Contact Katie at scene@unionleader.com.


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