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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • Christensen’s kidney operation a ‘blessed” success

  •     At the time of his last interview, his kidney function was just below 20% and he was understandably looking forward to May, where he’d share a bonding experience with his brother-in-law that would go farther – way farther! – than any fishing trip would. On the first day of May, in ...
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  •     Despite his positive attitude, prior to May 1, when Eric Christensen had his kidney transplant surgery, the future seemed fairly bleak.
        Deadly bleak.
        A quick recap: Eric Christensen suffers from one of the most common life-threatening genetic diseases called Polycystic kidney disease (PKD).
        At the time of his last interview, his kidney function was just below 20% and he was understandably looking forward to May, where he’d share a bonding experience with his brother-in-law that would go farther – way farther! – than any fishing trip would.
        On the first day of May, in what one might consider a race against the clock, Eric would be receiving a kidney from none other than his brother-in-law,?Tim Schoonhoven of Alexandra.
    Cut to nearly two months later, when the future – and the smiles of he and his wife – seems much, much brighter.
         In fact, while it might just be the light of the Plaindealer newsroom, it looks like there’s much more color in those previously sallow cheeks.
        Whoever says three’s a crowd (Eric now has three kidneys)?hasn’t heard Eric and Tims’ triumphant story of patience and courage.
        “Everything went pretty well,” said Eric.
        Long story short, the recovery time for Eric was about three weeks total and now he’s feeling one heck of a lot better.
        “I feel pretty good,” said Eric, smiling, with his wife Mary standing behind him – literally  and always figuratively! “I mean, the incision is still a little bit sore, and there’s still pain with the existing kidneys, but I feel a lot better! I’ve got more energy, I feel better, I?just feel totally different.”
        At the time of this interview, he’d just started work again. While not quite full-time yet, he’s still managing six- to seven-hour work days.
        However, there are always precautions that must be taken into consideration.
        “There are still weight restrictions,” Eric explained. “I’ve kind of got to watch what I lift. I’m still kind of limited on what I can do. I walk a lot more. I’m able to do more things around the house.”
        And he’s awake more! Before the surgery, Eric was sleeping a lot of the time, with little energy to do anything else.
        Mary jokingly says that as lucidity on Eric’s part is much more frequent, these days, so is extra lip.
        “We almost decided ... that we might have to have counseling because he was awake more!” said Mary in jest.
        There are also other struggles as well.
        “We fight over the remote control a lot more,” Eric said, with humor in his voice.
        All joking aside, Mary was quick to express her gratitude.
    Page 2 of 2 -     “My sister, Connie, stayed in Rochester a week with us to help care for Eric,” said Mary via e-mail. “Both our families and friends have been very supportive and we could not have made it through this journey without them.”
        Tim’s journey was a little more problematic, due to an issue relating to one of his sutures. Surgeons had to perform “a little bit of a minor surgery.” Luckily, however, he was able to have it done in his town.
        As for the Pain Factor, luck wasn’t necessarily on his side.
        “It wasn’t a big deal, but it kind of set me back a little bit again,” said Tim. “It took a little longer [to recover]. It took about eight weeks from that surgery. I think it’s been 10 weeks, today. It took about eight weeks to feel pretty good. Now, I’m exercising again.”
        When asked if he’d do it again, now that he’s been through it, his answer is the very definition of what family is all about.
        “Even in the parts that were sort of painful, the setback time ... it never got to a point where I felt I wish I’d never done that!” said Tim. “I never got to the point where I wished I hadn’t done it. I feel fortunate that I was able to do it."
        In the end, it’s Mary who has the final word. Fittingly enough, she speaks of Eric’s first words upon waking up from surgery.
        "When he woke up [after the surgery], he said he knew immediately  that it was working,” recalled Mary. "The fact that both of them are good and back to their routines ... we’ve very much been blessed.”
        For more information about the Mayo Transplant Clinic, call  866-227-1569 (toll-free) or e-mail it at transplant-rst@mayo.edu.
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