ESCANABA - Toni Krusell of Escanaba received a kidney transplant 16 years ago using a donor organ from her brother, John Nolde. But with the anticipated life expectancy for a donated kidney of 15 years, Toni humorously said she's already one year beyond the expiration date.
But, unfortunately, her situation is no laughing matter. With her donated kidney failing rapidly, the 55-year-old wife and mother is in search of a second donor. She is anticipating having a second transplant at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor.
Toni suffered from crystalized kidneys for several years and underwent kidney dialysis for more than two years before the transplant became inevitable. The first surgery was performed in 1998.
Dorothy McKnight |?Daily Press
Toni Krusell may look the picture of health, but the Escanaba woman is in dire need of a second kidney transplant to save her life. The first kidney she received from her brother 16 years ago is failing. A benefit dinner will be held to help offset travel and housing costs to Ann Arbor is scheduled for Saturday at the U.P. Plumbers and Pipefitters Hall in Escanaba from 2-11 p.m.
Toni has recently suffered from a virus attack and is experiencing renal failure. Her donated kidney is currently functioning at only 15 percent.
"I really don't want to go back on dialysis and my doctor in Ann Arbor doesn't want me dialyzing either," Toni said. "As long as the kidney is still working, he said he really doesn't want to take it out."
But the second transplant is inevitable.
"My son, Nathan, was tested and he's not a match but my daughter, Danielle, is being tested to see if she can be a donor," Toni said. "The doctor already told me to not be surprised if my children are not a match for me. I guess it's very common."
Toni said she is being very careful not to put any pressure on her children to donate a kidney in the event they are a match for her.
"My brother is doing very well, but I have no intention of coaxing my kids to go through this," she said. "I want them to be willing on their own to do it."
In the event that her daughter isn't a match for her mom, Toni said she will be placed on an a list in hopes of receiving another live-donor kidney.
"Right now I'm getting along pretty good," she said. "I'm getting shots once a month to boost my blood and I get really tired, but I'm doing okay. But sometimes it take as long as six years to be on the list and a lot of people become too old in the meantime to get one."
Although Toni qualifies for Medicare and Medicare, she and her husband had to seek a supplement insurance to help pay for the costly care and medications.
"One medication alone costs $600," said Toni's husband, Paul. "There's no way we could pay for all those expenses without help."
But the cost of the treatment, surgery and other medical costs are not the only problems that the couple faces. In the absence of resident facilities available for outpatients in Ann Arbor, the Krusells anticipate another big expense.
"After the surgery, I will have to stay there for six weeks and check back with the hospital once a week, especially if there's any chance at rejection," Toni said. "I won't be in any condition to travel back and forth from here, so we plan on staying in a hotel close to the hospital that makes accommodations for outpatients."
To help the family with their expenses, the couple's children and other family members are hosting a spaghetti dinner benefit at the U.P. Plumbers and Pipefitters Hall on Saturday from 2-11 p.m. The dinner will feature Crispignia's famous sauce. There will be a raffle, 50/50, kettle corn and bake sale available. Raffle items include handmade knives, gift certificates, bike tune-up, massage, oil change and more.
Cost for the dinner is $8 for adults and free for children under 12.
Both Toni and her husband are grateful for all the help they have received throughout this ordeal.
"I wasn't really crippled by all this, but I guess I did really good to have the first kidney last for 16 years," Toni said with a smile. "I just hope the second transplant goes as well."