CRANBERRY TWP — For nearly 15 years, Ott Quarles has heard the Christmas wishes of thousands of township children.
Adorned in a red suit, a long white beard offset by his rosy cheeks, Quarles has routinely made Santa's First Stop at the township municipal building, hearing pleas for dolls, bikes and gaming systems.
Last year, however, found Quarles with a Christmas wish of his own: a new kidney.
Quarles, who works for the township's engineering department, had been dealing with health issues for years, being placed on medication to manage diabetes. He said a doctor's visit in January 2017 returned a startling discovery: his kidneys were failing.
“The doctor kept telling me I needed more blood work, but I never had time to get it done,” he said, adding the work was intended to make sure the medication wasn't damaging his organs. “Most people are like that, but it came back and bit me big time.”
Doctors told Quarles he wouldn't make it through Christmas of 2017, and that if he wanted to be placed on the transplant list, he had to get his body mass index below 40. Over the next eight months, Quarles worked with a doctor specializing in kidney issues to develop a diet plan and lost close to 80 pounds.
His efforts helped him make it to Christmas, but time was running out to find a donor.
Enter Cranberry Township.
This is an excerpt — read more about Quarles transplant journey in Sunday's Butler Eagle.