By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Delano’s Brad Klatke has had some low points the past few years, but he has high hopes for 2014.
“Things do get better,” he said.
Klatke’s struggle began in 2009, when he started feeling extremely weak and tired. Doctors diagnosed him with chronic kidney failure, and Klatke joined more than 100,000 US citizens who are waiting for an organ transplant.
Kidney wait times very greatly, but typically, it takes three to five years to find a match, according to KidneyLink.
Klatke’s condition was more complicated than average, however, since he also needed a new liver. He was told his body would more easily accept the organs if they were from the same donor, but it would increase his wait time.
In 2010, Klatke started undergoing dialysis every other day at Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia. He was also in and out of the hospital multiple times for complications related to kidney and liver failure.
For 55-year-old Klatke, the hardest part of being ill was the uncertainty he faced every day.
“Sometimes, I was so sick, I’d just want to give up,” he said, adding that family and friends helped him keep pressing on.
Unexpected heart surgery
Things got more challenging in August 2012, when Klatke contracted a dangerous infection that attacked his heart. For the next several months, doctors treated the infection with drugs, in hopes of slowing or eliminating it.
Unfortunately, by the end of 2012, two of Klatke’s heart valves had completely deteriorated and were non-functioning. That December, he underwent mitral valve replacement surgery at Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis.
The surgery utilizes new valves made from animal tissue, usually a cow or pig. According to the Mayo Clinic, biological valves aren’t as durable as mechanical ones, and eventually may need to be replaced.
Waiting and hoping
Although Klatke needed the surgery for his heart, it made it more difficult for him to get a new liver and kidney.
“Doctors told him that before he could receive new organs, he first had to undergo the heart surgery, it had to be completed successfully, and he had to recover completely before he could go back on the organ transplant list,” noted Russ Nolan, a friend of the family.
So, while Klatke recovered, he waited.
During that time, he learned about a transplant program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
“A nurse at the University of Minnesota told me about it,” Klatke recalled.
He was accepted into the program in June 2013.
A surreal call
Just six months later at 8 p.m. Oct. 28 Klatke and his family got the call they’d been waiting for.
The Nebraska medical center had found a “perfect match” for both a kidney and liver, and he needed to immediately leave for Omaha.
During the six-hour drive, Klatke and his wife, Andrea, were filled with emotion.
“It was kind of surreal,” Klatke said. “I had been waiting for four years for this, and all of a sudden it’s there. I didn’t think I’d ever get it.”
The next day, after about eight hours of surgery, Klatke awoke with his new kidney and liver. The procedure had been successful, and Klatke assumed the worst was over.
More heart trouble
Days later, however, Klatke was hit with another problem. It had been 10 months since his heart valve replacement surgery in Minneapolis, and the valves were no longer functioning properly.
Another surgery was needed. So, while Klatke was still recovering from the double organ transplant, doctors performed a second procedure to save Klatke’s failing heart.
Afterward, Klatke was required to stay in Omaha longer than originally planned, in order to give his body time to heal. As his condition improved, he was moved to an adjacent living facility called The Nebraska House.
Home to Delano
Klatke, a 1976 graduate of Delano High School, returned home two days after Christmas.
Now, he’s concentrating on physical therapy to regain muscle strength. Within a few months, he plans to find a job and go back to work full time. Prior to his illness, Klatke owned an insulation business.
“Eventually, I sold the company because I couldn’t really work anymore,” he said.
Recently, though, Klatke’s stamina has been improving.
“I’m getting better and stronger every day,” he said. “I’ll be able to lead a normal life in a couple months.”
Although Brad Klatke is recovering from his recent medical challenges, he and his family continue to face growing financial challenges.
Due to his illness, Klatke has been unable to work for several years.
A bank account has been opened for him at Klein Bank, 8900 Minnesota Highway 7, St. Bonifacius, MN 55375.
To make a contribution, contact the bank at (952) 361-3895.