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A slimmed-down Rep. David Dill listens to testimony in a committee hearing this week. Dill has lost weight and is looking into a kidney transplant. (Don Davis / State Capitol Bureau)

Rep. Dill's kidney transplant needs not imminent

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Like his colleagues in the Legislature, Rep. David Dill faces several months of long nights at the Capitol attending hearings, digesting bills and voting.

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Unlike his colleagues, Dill does this facing the likelihood that someday will need a kidney transplant.

Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, has been fighting diabetes for a quarter century. He acknowledged not managing the disease closely for the first few years, but he has been much better since 1996 when doctors told him his kidney function was starting to decline.

He lost 140 pounds after having gastric bypass surgery 16 months ago.

His efforts are keeping the need for a transplant at bay for now. Despite losing 1 percent to 2 percent of his kidney function each year, Dill said, he doesn't have an ache in his body. In fact, Dill said, he has been hunting and snowmobiling this winter and he still tends to several business dealings on top of his legislative duties.

"I haven't missed a day of work in 15 years," he said, adding that he "absolutely" plans to run for re-election. "Unequivocally, yes."

A commercial pilot and mechanic, Dill was first elected to the House in 2002. He likes to have his life planned out to the extent possible. So next month he will begin preparation for an eventual transplant by participating in a one-hour orientation that will include blood tests and an educational video, a contrast to an inaccurate online report that he would receive a new kidney next month.

Dill said his doctors have told him he can survive with 15 percent functionality and that at the moment his kidneys are performing well enough that he wouldn't qualify for a transplant if he wanted one.

"Under the circumstances I still have good kidney function," he said. "I would acknowledge I'm not doing what I was doing when I was 34 ... (but) I'm functioning perfectly normally right now."

Dill said his sister and several friends each offered a kidney. He shares the same blood type with his sister, which improves the chances of a match.

A potential transplant, he added, could happen in six months, 18 months or sometime further into the future, though he'd rather do it sooner than later.

"I'd do it right now if I could get it done," he said. "Why wouldn't I want to be normal?"

Fellow Iron Range Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, said he has enjoyed working with Dill on issues ranging from business taxes to snowmobile trails and tourism to the physics laboratory built by the University of Minnesota's School of Physics and Astronomy near the Ash River, southeast of International Falls.

"He has brought a great perspective to the state," said Solberg, calling Dill upfront, trustworthy and someone you would want to take advice from. "He's well respected on both sides of the political aisle. He's smart and he brings his business experience to the legislative process."

While he still feels good, Dill did recommend to other diabetics that they take the disease seriously, seek treatment and take care of themselves.

"This is an extremely difficult disease to manage," he said. "But it can be managed."

Tellijohn reports for Forum Communications Co.

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