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A kidney to spare: Mom cleared to give her kidney to son after the first of the year

In early December, as the Dornbusch family was in full holiday swing, Sheri received the Christmas news she hoped to hear: she was cleared to give her son, Justin, the best gift she could spare - one of her kidneys.

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Sheri Dornbusch, left, and her son, Justin, at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis earlier this year, just after learning he was in full kidney failure. Leaving her son was a very difficult day, she said. Submitted photo

In early December, as the Dornbusch family was in full holiday swing, Sheri received the Christmas news she hoped to hear: she was cleared to give her son, Justin, the best gift she could spare – one of her kidneys.

In mid-November, it looked like she might not be a viable candidate for the donation because doctors at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis were concerned about some abnormal blood tests. They suggested she see an oncologist in Fargo to clear her of any cancer concerns.

“That was very scary. It’s unnerving to think I might have cancer,” the Perham mom said.

She began the testing process for possible donation nearly a year ago when she learned Justin, 30, had gone into full kidney failure, leaving him with only 2 percent function in his kidneys. He began dialysis and Dornbusch started working out at the Perham Area Community Center to improve her health for the possible donation and recovery time following.

In November, as she was completing what she thought were the final tests, she learned her white cell count was so low that doctors said she may not be a good donor for her son, she said.

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Everyone in her family had been sick and she had contracted a bug of some sort, she said. Though she didn’t have the illness as severely as others, doctors wanted to be sure she was healthy.

With Justin’s immune system already compromised, he couldn’t take anything into his body that might cause an infection, she said, and they sent her to an oncologist in Fargo.

She endured a colonoscopy, had several pre-cancerous polyps removed and was finally cleared on Dec. 8 to donate her kidney.

“It’s been an emotional up and down thing. Every time I thought I was getting somewhere, doctors would order more tests,” Dornbusch, 50, said of the past month of tests and waiting to hear if she had passed the latest test taken. “I am extremely happy. It’s a lot of testing that they do, so I guess I’m grateful for that.”

The surgery, in which she will give her left kidney to her son, is scheduled Jan. 11, at Piper Hospital, a member of the Abbott Hospital family, Dornbusch said. The doctors will make a small incision, put a ‘sleeve’ into her body and slide the kidney through the sleeve out of her body. Dornbusch will stay three to five days recovering at the hospital; Justin will remain in the hospital about eight days recuperating, she said.

“We are both looking forward to that day, when he will be able to move forward without dialysis and have a life again,” Dornbusch said. “For me, that will be a huge reward, just getting to see him have a normal life.”

A benefit in mid-November raised money to help the family with transportation and other expenses, Dornbusch said, and she couldn’t be more thankful.

“There really are no words to express how thankful we are for everything everybody has done to help,” Dornbusch said. “We would like to thank all the people and businesses that donated to the benefit, as well as all the people that stepped up and helped the day of the benefit to help make it a success. We have a great family, amazing friends and live in a good community.”

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