Giving the Gift of Life

Our People – The Better half of our tag line.

If we were without Our People, we would be nothing. It is Our People that make Our Products, and this company, truly stellar.

One such instance of Our People being truly stellar is a recent event; a life saving event.

In the summer of 2014, Dave Backus, then the Stellar CFO, became ill. Many trips to the doctors in Mason City took place over then next few months, and countless tests performed only to rule out numerous things, but fail to diagnose what was going on. Dave continued to get progressively sicker while trying to determine the cause. It was finally through a kidney biopsy analyzed by the Mayo Clinic that determined Dave had Membranous Nephrophy. It’s a kidney disease that leads to End State Renal Failure, which means Dave was in need of a kidney transplant, or face being on dialysis for the rest of his life.

A preeminent physician doing research on this particular disease was luckily practicing at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Dave was referred to this physician that immediately began treatment by administering two doses of a clinical trial drug, versus subjecting Dave to any of the harsher cancer drugs that are often used to treat Membranous Nephrophy. However, the trial drug was not effective in Dave’s case, and this lead to the doctor recommending a kidney transplant. Dave underwent four days of screening for this next step. It involved many tests and consultations with various doctors at Mayo Clinic. Shortly after the approval was given for Dave to be placed on the list for a deceased kidney in May 2016. He was then informed it could be a wait time of up to 5 years based on his blood type. Dave’s daughter lives in Scottsdale, AZ, only 5 minutes from the Mayo Clinic Phoenix location, so Dave took a trip and went through the same process there in order to improve his chances of receiving a kidney.

In July 2016, while sitting along the streets of Garner watching the Duesey Days parade roll by with a bunch of fellow co-workers, a Living Donor float passed by. The topic of Dave’s health became the focal point of conversation. Dave informed the group that he was currently on the waiting list for a kidney, but it could take quite some time to find a match. This resonated with one of Dave’s co-workers, Travis Glidden.

On the walk home that day, he started discussing the Living Donor program with his wife, Theresa. “It felt like it was something I should look into,” said Travis. Several days later, Dave and Travis were talking and Dave shared that a friend of his daughter’s had volunteered to be a donor, so Travis backed off of the idea. Several months passed, and Travis stopped in to chat with Dave one day and asked how his kidney transplant was progressing. Dave informed Travis that the potential donor had a rare blood type and Mayo was unable to match her with anyone, therefore he was back to square one. Come to find out later, Dave’s wife had also “secretly” volunteered to donate, but was subsequently turned down.

“For a week or so after that last conversation, I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about this,” Travis said. “And I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. Something was telling me to keep exploring being a living donor.” Travis spent a few evenings watching informational videos on being a living donor on the Mayo Clinic website, and talked about it with his wife and family, and got their support. “I told them, ‘I can’t explain this – other than I feel this is the right thing for me to do,’” he said. “I went back into the office the next day to visit Dave and to tell him I was ready to take the steps to be a kidney donor.”

Stunned. That was Dave’s reaction. “I still can’t find the words to adequately express how I feel about such a great gift,” said Dave. “Travis would often stop by my office and ask how my transplant process was going, but I had no idea he was considering donating one of his own kidneys to me,” Dave continued. “I thought I was out of options.”

“Dave has been one of a few people in my life that has truly been a coach to me when it comes to saving and investing for retirement,” said Travis. “He, along with Francis Zrostlik years ago, has hounded me to save in my 401k plan – even though I had four kids to raise and put through college.” Travis continued, “I’m 50 years old and now have a solid retirement plan, in part to Dave. I thought to myself that it would be a real blow to work, save, and invest for an entire career and at retirement age be faced with spending 3 days a week, for 5 hours at a time, doing kidney dialysis.” Travis concluded, “If I could give back and help Dave and his family enjoy a healthy retirement, that’s what I was going to do. I was going to leave this up to God and Mayo Clinic.”

The process to confirm Travis as a match began with a blood draw at the local doctor’s office that was sent to Mayo Clinic. Travis was confirmed as a paired match. The next step was a visit to Mayo Clinic for a very thorough two-day physical, a visit with a counselor, a dietitian, a transplant surgeon, a handful of other various doctors, and a series of blood and urine tests. Several weeks passed and a call was received that Travis was in good shape, good health, and approved to donate directly to Dave. A date was set. April 21st would be the transplant day.

Two days prior to transplant Day Dave went to Rochester to start his pre-surgery preparations including more tests, two rounds of dialysis, and drugs that essentially wiped out his immune system to keep his body from rejecting the “foreign object”. Travis arrived the day before, was put through more tests, and they both met with their respective surgeons to review the procedure in detail. Over 100,000 people are currently waiting for a kidney, and 10,000 kidney transplants take place every year. The Mayo System does about 9% of those transplants every year. Dave’s transplant was their doctor’s second surgery for the day. By 2:00 pm on April 21st, Travis’ surgery was complete, and Dave’s finished about 4:30 pm, with the new kidney working almost immediately. The procedure left Dave’s two existing kidneys in place, and positioned the new kidney in his lower abdomen.

Forty-eight hours later, Travis was released to go home. Dave was released from the hospital 3 days post-surgery, but needed to stay in Rochester for up to 1 additional month, going in for daily blood tests. The first week post-op went very well for Dave and he was told that if things continue to go this well, he’d be going home sooner than planned. One of his post-op attending physicians called Dave his “Super Star Transplant Recipient.” Dave was released to go home 2 weeks after his surgery, but only after much quizzing by the nurses regarding his anti-rejection drugs, and his new dietary restrictions.

The outcome for both has been very positive. For Travis, the first few days of recovery were pretty tough as his healthy body was now learning to function with one less kidney. Having not gone through any major medical procedure in his lifetime, his body felt pretty beat up. But once he battled through the first week, recovery sped up and soon he was back to the rec center walking up to 2 miles every day the 2nd week of recovery. Now Travis is almost back to his usual self. One thing he noted was the overwhelming amount of support he received from co-workers, customers, and friends. He received countless emails, texts and phone calls leading up to the surgery and during recovery. Travis said, “I can’t thank my friends enough for all the support I have received these past few months.”

For Dave, he felt almost immediately better, although he has to slowly regain his strength back that he lost during the time before the transplant and the surgical recovery. Dave will forever be on anti-rejection medications, and he is slowly weaning off some of the antibiotics he is currently taking.
“My kidney disease had progressed to the stage where I needed to be on dialysis to survive,” said Dave. “Without a transplant, I would have had to continue on dialysis several times a week until a kidney became available, which could be up to 5 years.” He continued, “The outcome for a live donor kidney is much better with a longer, healthy survival rate than a deceased kidney. So the outcome could not have been better for me.” Dave concluded, “Words can not describe how I feel about Travis donating a healthy kidney to me. It has given me a second chance on life – one where I can enjoy my retirement, grand kids, and the opportunity to enjoy a long and healthy life. Travis is definitely my hero.”

If you are interested in becoming an organ donor, please visit https://www.organdonor.gov/register.html?gclid=CjwKEAjwytLKBRCX547gve7EsE4SJAD3IZV6dBn75Rg6OfHE-BZIKx4DKmcU8-P626lBAuzoNF58dRoCLFnw_wcB

If you are interested in becoming a living organ donor, you’ll want to check out this link as the process is different: https://www.organdonor.gov/about/process/living-donation.html