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VERNON — Richard Rowell had always wanted to come to Vermont. The relative newcomer was thrilled to finally call the Green Mountain State his home, but in the long, winding road to get here, he discovered that he had kidney disease.

Rowell is originally from Jacksonville, Fla., but traveled around as a millwright. He would do repairs at different papermills and power plants around the country. In 2019, his wife and children wanted to travel on the road with him while he was working. Wanting to be closer to their father, the children started taking virtual classes.

Their travels brought them to Vernon to visit a friend and the family enjoyed the area. Richard and his wife, Christina, in their mid-40s and planning for their retirement, decided they wanted to stay in Vermont and create a life here, officially moving to the area in 2022.

But right about that time, while working at a plant in North Carolina, Rowell started having health issues.

“I was not feeling good, so I told the guys, I gotta go with my wife. I was ready for me to come home. I’ve been on the road for a while,” said Rowell. “I’ve been on the road for almost 15 years straight. I just didn’t feel like myself. I was here maybe a couple of weeks and had to go to the hospital (Brattleboro Memorial Hospital). That’s when I found out it was actually stage four kidney failure.”

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Rowell was born with just one kidney.

He quickly got an appointment with the nephrology department at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center Hospital in Lebanon, N.H., for tests. Rowell does not require dialysis yet, but that is not stopping his medical team from starting to reach out for a possible kidney donor. Currently they are doing tissue and blood tests to find what type of kidney would be a good fit for Rowell.

“We’re still in the beginning phases, I’m still learning a lot,” said Rowell.

He set up a GoFundMe page at to help find a potential donor and to raise money while he’s out of work.

Rowell said his family has been supportive during the process and they plan to get tested to see if they are a match as soon as his own test results coming in. Rowell said if he does go on dialysis, it could extend his life for 10 years, but he doesn’t want to wait. He is hoping to find a kidney sooner.

Photographer / Multimedia Editor

Has been working as a photojournalist since 2007, before moving into newspapers, he worked with an NGO called Project HOPE. He then went to work for the Press and Sun-Bulletin in New York, and then in New England working for the Brattleboro Reformer.