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Local kidney transplant recipient grateful for gift of life.

Awaiting the call of their fourth grandchild to be born, Dean and Kathy Rogers know just how important it is to savor and appreciate each day.

After suffering a heart attack in August of 2006, doctors found Dean's kidneys were not working properly and he needed a transplant. While other dates of heart attacks and dialysis may be months and years, ask him when he got his transplant and Dean, 60, has no problem remembering Oct. 10, 2007.

It started a few months after his heart attack.

"We were coming back from Minneapolis and I told my wife my feet hurt."

When he got home to Mahnomen, he soaked his feet and when he took his feet out of the water, they were purple. He went to the clinic in Mahnomen and was sent to Fargo.

In November of 2006, he started kidney dialysis in Detroit Lakes. He and his wife, or a friend when she wasn't able to take him, traveled to Detroit Lakes three times a week.

"It's quite a commitment," he said of the time to drive there, be on dialysis for three and a half hours and then drive home afterward.

At the dialysis unit, the "staff is second to none," he said. "It's not just the way I was treated, but my family too. They were very personable, professional."

Being on dialysis for that long, he got to know others going through dialysis and the families as well.

"They're almost like an extended family," he said.

MeritCare provides dialy-sis services in Detroit Lakes to patients six days per week. MeritCare leases space from St. Mary's Innovis Health and is located in their north campus location. The major-ity of patients served are from the local area, however there are many visiting pa-tients who travel from miles away.

Some of those that travel, like the Rogers -- although they don't have to travel as far as some -- can take advantage of other services in Detroit Lakes as well.

Dialysis took three and a half hours from the time he was hooked up to the time he was taken off the machine. To pass the time, Dean would read, sleep or watch TV.

"That was the hard part for him. I shopped," Kathy said with a laugh.

The Rogers learned there are many restrictions that come with dialysis.

"You can eat way less than you can eat," Kathy said, who changed her eating habits as well, although she did manage to sneak some chocolate here and there.

There were liquid restric-tions, only allowing 6-10 cups a day of all liquids. Even most fruit was off limits because of potassium levels. Dean ate a lot of grapes.

After the transplant though, and Dean could go back to eating what he had missed out on, he maintained a healthy weight. Kathy said doctors told them some people gain 40-60 pounds after a transplant because not only is it an adjustment for the body, but people eat and eat all the foods they had been missing for so long during dialysis.

Before the transplant, Dean had to meet several requirements including physically, financially, insur-ance (The first year of drugs costs $20,000-$30,000 alone), how well he took care of himself, and whether den-tal care is in order.

During his time on dialysis, Dean said he was tired and weak, and he never went far from home alone because he couldn't drive far. He was also too weak to carry grocer-ies, a task most people take for granted, and that frustrated him.

Then the good news arrived that he would be getting a new kidney.

"I don't know if I can explain the feeling," of being told he had finally received a matching kidney. "Disbelief," Kathy said, much to Dean's agreement. While some peo-ple are on a donor list for 1-4 years -- and 16 people a day die waiting on a list -- it was unbelievable to the Rogers how quickly he received the transplant.

The day of the transplant, Dean went through dialysis that morning, and once at the hospital, more hours of testing had to be done on the kidney. There are six markers that need to fit for the kidney to match and all six matched perfectly for Dean.

"Although they thought it was a perfect match, it had to have four more hours of tests," Dean explained of his kidney.

The first month after the transplant, doctors monitored him carefully. Two days after the transplant, Dean suffered a second heart attack. That didn't seem to slow him down though.

"It was hard to hold him down," Kathy said because Dean wanted to be active after the transplant. He re-covered and was up and around about a month later.

"He was very fortunate (there were no) side affects to drugs and no infections, colds or anything. Very, very lucky," Kathy said.

Although for the first six months after the transplant he had to take a lot more medi-cations, Dean will have to be on some form of medication for the rest of his life.

"It's minor compared to dialysis," he said.

The Rogers said they have no idea who the kidney donor was because there are so many guidelines when donat-ing and receiving organs. The Rogers were allowed to write a letter to the donor family, but they couldn't include anything personal about themselves -- no names, addresses, nothing personal, right down to no mention of religion even. Nothing but a thank you.

All they know is that it was a 37-year-old person. Somewhere down the road though, they hope to meet the family of the donor.

Although Dean physically, and emotionally for that matter, had to endure the transplant, Kathy wasn't far behind either. Her positive attitude helped Dean through the process.

"From within, and I know where that comes from, I had a strength that was just there. Emotionally, I handled it OK," she said with Dean nodding in agreement. "It's amazing what you can do when you have to."

She said going through dialysis and a transplant isn't something anyone should do on their own. Instead, it needs to be a family, friends and community effort.

"It takes everybody to get through something like this," she said.

Fortunately, there was a social worker that helped whenever needed. When they traveled to the Cities, the social worker would help them set up dialysis appoint-ments.

"They really work with you," she said.

"Without the Kidney Foundation, it's so overwhelming. They've done so much to develop the pro-gram."

Getting information out to people and supporting research are important to the Rogers. They are participating in the upcoming Kidney Walk in Fargo on May 31.

The 3k walk supports the National Kidney Foundation of Minnesota. It is from 9 a.m. to noon at the Newman Outdoor Field.

After the first six months, Dean's risk of rejection or infection goes down, but there is always a risk the body could reject the kidney. "I can't say I think about it, but yeah, any day I could be back in that chair," he said.

"Don't take a day for granted," she added.

"You find out what is important and what you thought was important is not," he said. "You celebrate every day."

Dean turned 60 in February, and to celebrate, the family is holding a Celebration of Life Golf Tournament this summer for family, friends, nurses, "anybody who helped us get through all this," Kathy said.

Although Dean has been a donor on his driver's license for years, he said he takes it more personally now.

"Somebody gave me a chance and I'd definitely like to give somebody else a chance if I can," he said.

If you have any questions about dialysis or have interest in visiting the dialysis unit, call a MeritCare dialysis staff member at 847-0825.