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Cops and partners — a kidney donation made them something else: bonded for life

‘It’s remarkable altruism. These are both nice guys.’

Pete Petrides (left), who donated a kidney to his fellow police officer Mark Kalinowski, posed for a portrait in Kalinowski’s living room in Norwich, Conn.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

NORWICH, Conn. — Before they became friends and forged an unbreakable bond tightened by a life-changing medical alliance, Peter Petrides and Mark Kalinowski were two local cops, out on patrol, keeping the peace, putting bad guys away.

Friday night fights. Traffic stops. Domestic disturbances. Helping people in need of a hand.

The daily routine that becomes the rhythm of life on patrol in small-city New England.

“When I was in first grade, I was one of those kids who wanted to be a cop and I never let go of that,’’ Kalinowski, 60, told me the other day in the kitchen of his home here.

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Petrides, raised in Plainfield and educated at the University of Connecticut, volunteered for the infantry and served 12 years on active duty, rising to captain before he accepted a financial package from the Army and came home.

“They were offering us money to get out so I’m like, ‘Yeah. I’m going to do this,’ ‘’ Petrides, 63, said. “I got out.’’

Pete became a cop and eventually teamed up here with Mark.

A team. Peter Petrides and Mark Kalinowski. Two local cops who worked together, able to take each other’s measure during those long shifts on the job.

“Mark’s a squared away guy,’’ Petrides said. “He’s a good guy. He always did a good job. Very conscientious. And we had a lot of good people. But you could always count on Mark.

“I don’t know if he remembers it, but I was pretty new and there was a guy with a shotgun outside a bar on the east side. And Mark backed me up.’’

Kalinowski at first was wary of his new partner’s style on the job.

He could be tough if he had to. But Petrides knew how to diffuse combustible situations.

“At first, because I was old school, I was thinking: That’s not going to work,’’ Kalinowski said of Petrides’s approach to police work. “As soon as you tell them you’re under arrest and they say, ‘No.’ That’s it.

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“But Pete would say: ‘I want to treat you with respect because of the human that you are.’ ‘’

And soon that side of Petrides — the guy always willing to help — would become a lifeline for Kalinowski.

It happened like this:

Kalinowski was in desperate need of a kidney transplant.

“He was quite ill,’’ said Karen Curreri, a registered nurse at Boston Medical Center and its living donor coordinator for transplant surgery. “He had been gaining weight, which was fluid weight because his kidneys were not processing fluid very well.’’

When his local newspaper — The Day of New London — wrote about the case, Curreri said she received 50 calls within a week from people offering their help.

“It’s interesting because we do complain about how people can be selfish and out for themselves and then when you realize there are large amounts of people who are willing to help someone else, it’s just remarkable,’’ said Dr. Jeffrey Cooper, chief of BMC’s division of kidney transplant surgery and Kalinowski’s surgeon.

One of the readers of that story was Petrides, who by then had retired from the Norwich police force.

“I’m kind of religious,’’ Petrides said. “I say my prayers. I say my rosary every day.

“And I’m thinking, ‘You know? ‘What do you want me to do?’ I see the article and I’m like, ‘This could be a clue.’ And I’m thinking: Mark needs a hand. Because I know Mark, I know he’s not going to do this unless he needs help.’’

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Yes, he needed help.

And he needed it urgently.

What followed was nothing short of life-altering surgery.

“He was pretty sick,’’ Curreri told me. “The kidneys are the filter for the body and it wasn’t filtering out things that it should have.’’

As Cooper put it: “It’s remarkable altruism,’’ he said. “These are both nice guys.’’

Petrides said when he talks to Kalinowski now, he ends his conversation this way: “Say your prayers.’’

“I think there’s a certain amount of ‘If this is God’s will, it’s going to happen’ going on here,’’ Petrides told me. “I think there was some of that going on here. I’m not a theologian, but I think there’s something going on.’'

Kalinowski has a new appreciation for the preciousness of life. A life that will go on. And a future that includes his daughter Alysha’s wedding this fall.

“It does make me appreciate not being sick now,’’ he said. “I can take medications. That’s fine. That doesn’t bother me at all. But I have a better outlook on life. I can do things again. I can continue to build strength and get back to work again.

“But none of it would have been possible without Pete. We don’t know how we can ever repay him. I’m not sure any of us could ever do that.”

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Kalinowski has been reviewing possible songs for the dance he will share with his daughter on her wedding day.

“I was just bawling listening to them all,’’ he said. “What I was thinking was:

“I can be there.

“And I can dance.’’


Thomas Farragher is a Globe columnist. He can reached at thomas.farragher@globe.com.