Kidney transplant helps one woman beat the odds

Various health issues led doctors to believe Ginny Huettmann wouldn’t live to see 30.

Ginny wasn’t supposed to be here. When she was a child, a doctor informed her parents that she wouldn’t live to see 30. Ginny proved him wrong by 38 years, and she is still going strong.

“Somehow I have managed to make it,” Ginny Huettmann says as she smiles. “I am pretty proud of myself for that.”

And Ginny should be proud. Her road has not been an easy one. Filled with bumps and detours, she has been dealing with medical issues since she was 9.

“I wasn’t feeling well so my dad took me to the doctor,” recalls Ginny. “He said I was anemic and gave me a prescription for iron. We went to the drug store to get the medication, and my dad bought me two little bags of candy. I started eating them in the car, and I was in coma before we got home.”

Ginny was in the coma for two weeks. It was during this time that she was diagnosed with diabetes. When Ginny was a child in the early 50s, care for diabetic patients was still being developed and a lot was still unknown about how to properly treat it. However, Ginny was able to manage her diabetes without major complications for most of her life.

“It was in 2009 that I finally had to go on dialysis,” says Ginny. “I really didn’t want to do it, mostly because I didn’t want to admit that my kidneys had failed.”

The road to a transplant

Ginny knew that she was going to need a kidney transplant eventually, and she was determined to get on the active transplant list as soon as possible. But due to certain circumstances, she wouldn’t be put on the list for two years.

“I tested positive for tuberculosis,” remembers Ginny. “I couldn’t believe it, but before I could get on the list, I needed to get rid of it.” Ginny went on a round of medication, but unfortunately it didn’t agree with her. “I was so sick,” recounts Ginny. “It ended up causing my bowel to bleed, and I had to have surgery to fix it. Then I had to wait another two months so I could heal before they put me on a different TB medication.”

This time around it did the trick, but Ginny still had another surgery to go before she would be allowed on the list. Her arteries were too small and weak to support such a large surgery like a transplant. She would have to undergo a triple bypass. But just six weeks after the surgery, Ginny was given the all clear to be put on the transplant list.

“Once I got on the list I thought, ‘Okay, now I just have to wait two or three years,’” says Ginny. “When I got the call six weeks later, I just couldn’t believe it.”

Ginny called her husband at work, packed and arrived at Sanford Health in less than two hours. Ginny received her kidney on July 28, 2011. She started feeling better, but her time in the hospital wasn’t over yet.

“I actually had to have a second surgery so they could move the kidney to a different location,” states Ginny. “One of my arteries had kinked and blood wasn’t reaching the kidney properly. So they had to put a stent in that artery. But after that second surgery, I was only in the hospital for just a few days.”

A new freedom

Now approaching the three year mark with her new kidney, Ginny is feeling better than ever and says she owes it all to the team at Sanford.

“Fantastic. That is really the only word I can use to describe my experience at Sanford,” says Ginny. “I can’t think of really one thing to complain about. Doctors, nurses, staff, everyone was just so kind while I was there. Really just a big thank-you to the whole crew.”

Ginny is now eagerly awaiting spring and the chance to get out and start tending her garden at her Garretson country home, something that she is now able to do easier since her kidney transplant.

“I have so much more freedom now that I have my kidney,” says Ginny. “Now I can do what I love.”

Posted In Dialysis, Health Information, Transplant