By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN As Tony and Linda Schaust spent their days creating distinctive furniture and other artwork in their hand-built farmhouse in rural Delano, kidney failure was just about the last topic on their minds.
“Tony is normally a picture of health,” said longtime friend Wally Johnson of Delano. “Most of us would like to have the energy he has.”
When Tony, 62, started to feel ill in January, the doctor initially assumed his symptoms shortness of breath, extreme itchiness, and high blood pressure could be alleviated with high blood pressure medication.
Friends and family, however, soon became concerned.
“He wasn’t looking like himself,” said Johnson, who has known the Schausts nearly 20 years.
On May 1, blood tests confirmed that Tony had severe kidney failure. He was hospitalized the next two days, and has been on dialysis ever since.
According to Johnson, the dialysis access portal placed near Tony’s neck can be left in that spot for a total of 90 days.
“They don’t like to go any longer in that position, because it’s hard on his heart,” Johnson said.
The access portal could be repositioned in Tony’s arm, but surgery would be necessary to realign his veins.
“He’s looking to find a donor as quickly as he can, to avoid surgery on his arm,” Johnson said.
A priceless gift
Kidneys can be transplanted from a living or deceased donor, and of all the major organs, it is the most often transplanted.
“The chances of a successful transplant go up significantly with a living donor,” Johnson said.
The first successful kidney transplant was performed in 1954. Since then, kidney transplants have helped more than 100,000 patients, according to a 2012 article from NPR.
The surgery is typically laparoscopic (minimally invasive), which means it is performed with the assistance of a video camera and several thin instruments.
As a result, the recovery time for the donor is typically fairly quick.
“For a desk job, people are usually away from work two to three weeks,” said Susanna Gust, donor coordinator for the kidney transplantation program
Donating a kidney
More than 2,000 Minnesotans are currently on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, including Tony Schaust of Delano.
To learn more about kidney donation, contact Susanna Gust, donor coordinator for the kidney transplantation program at Abbott Northwestern, at (612) 863-8886.
Potential kidney donors are given a detailed information packet and are screened for health issues and compatibility.
If a donor is not compatible with the patient they want to help, the donor can sometimes utilize a paired exchange program. According to the University of Minnesota Medical Center, this program allows a donor to give to a different, matching recipient. In exchange, the original patient receives a living donor kidney from someone else.