Lifelong West Hempstead resident Eric Peluso has earned a reputation as a friendly neighborhood mail carrier in just eight months on the job with the U.S. Postal Service in West Hempstead. Peluso, who has lived with a chronic kidney disease for nearly 20 years, said he has never let his illness define him.
“I’d have to thank my mother for that,” the 39-year-old said. “She was the strongest person that I knew. She always had a smile on her face, and she prayed very often.”
In recent months, Peluso’s condition has worsened. He was placed on the kidney donor waiting list at NYU Langone Hospital in Mineola on June 25.
“They say it could happen at anytime in your life, so I guess you could say that I was somewhat prepared for this,” he said. “But it’s still a very long road to go down.”
Peluso’s family has a long history of kidney problems. He was born prematurely, and his mother, Rose, suffered from kidney failure shortly after his birth, he said. She went on dialysis for about a year and a half, and received a kidney transplant in 1984. His brother, Thomas, also suffered from kidney failure in the early 2000s, and his mother’s kidney failed again around the same time.
“My father and I got tested to see if our kidneys were a match,” Peluso recalled. “My diagnosis came back with an increased amount of protein in my blood. That’s when doctors put me on medication to slow it down.”
His brother had a successful kidney transplant 14 years ago. His mother died in 2008, at age 57, of complications of kidney and heart problems. Their father, Thomas, known as Big T, died last year, of liver cancer, at 72.
“There’s days when I get in my delivery truck and I don’t want to work,” Peluso said. “At those moments, I think of my mother. She suffered a lot. Thinking of her just pushes me to keep going.”
Eric’s wife, Michele, a personal assistant, said that he carefully monitors his diet and exercises. “Doctors have said that it can be stable for many years, and then it can quickly just go downhill,” Michele said. “He’s just an all-around kindhearted person. Knowing the type of person he is, it breaks my heart to see him suffer like this. It will get worse, and it will devastate him.”
Peluso, who is on a national donor registry, has not needed dialysis yet. As his condition worsens, however, he is being as proactive as possible about his uncertain future. His wife, who is diabetic, would not be a viable donor.
“Unfortunately, the need of a donor never stops regardless of what’s going on in the world,” Michele said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic. “Some people don’t realize that you could live a normal, healthy life with one kidney.”
“You don’t have to wear a cape to be considered a hero,” Eric said. “I don’t want people to think they need to have certain qualities, like huge muscles, to be a hero. It’s about other things, like determination and strength.”
Before becoming a mail carrier, Peluso worked in finance, as a client reporting specialist, for 13 years. He had hoped to pursue a career as a graphic artist, but it was tough to find a job in the field. Over the past year he has been a food server, a bartender and a substitute teacher, hoping he would find another job that he was passionate about.
“I just wanted to secure a stable job,” Peluso said of delivering the mail. “It’s close to home, it makes me feel good to be of service to my community and I get some good exercise.”
While the Pelusos don’t have any children, Michele said that her husband has many young relatives in his life. “He adores my 3-year-old niece, and he has a nephew on the way,” she said. “For him to be able to experience and watch them grow, it would mean so much to him to find a donor.”
An avid reader who enjoys the works of author John Grisham, in addition to gardening and washing his car, Peluso said he would like to see his life return to some normalcy. “I just want a better quality of life, and I want to be there for my family,” he said.
Those interested in becoming a kidney donor for Peluso can go to www.kidney.org/transplantation/livingdonors, www.livingdonorassistance.org/default.aspx or call the NYU Langone Transplant Institute at (212) 263-3621 or (212) 263-8134.