For the Kozioleks, it was all up to
Saturday, March 30, 2002
About a year
and a half ago, Leon Koziolek of Freeborn was told to begin looking for someone
in his family who might be able to donate a kidney to him. "We procrastinated,"
admitted his son, Paul. "He looked OK to us at the time."
But Leon was
not OK. Originally diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease at age 35 -- 33
years ago -- Leon was treated for high blood pressure. "The kidneys control
the blood pressure," he explained. "I was taking so much blood pressure medicine
it was ridiculous."
On Nov. 29, 2001, he began dialysis in Rochester.
There were no available spots for him to receive it in Albert Lea, Austin or
Mankato. He received dialysis every day for four hours.
"But it still
wasn't cleaning out the toxins," Leon said. His health further deteriorated at
It was about the time Leon began dialysis
that Paul underwent the tests to see if he was suitable as a donor. Polycystic
kidney disease is hereditary. Three of Leon's six siblings have PKD, and two of
his sons and his daughter had already been diagnosed with the disease in its
early stages. When Paul's remaining brother was also diagnosed, it was up to
Paul had the same blood type as his father, and further testing
revealed two healthy kidneys.
"I thought, 'Now I have a decision to
make,'" he recalled. "But it really was an easy decision with the lifestyle Dad
had led. He didn't smoke and he didn't drink. Plus, with my brothers and
sisters, Dad and Mom never raised us to be selfish kids.
"I guess I look
at it this way: He put me on this Earth. I'm going to help keep him here," Paul
The family was given some dates from which to choose for the
transplant surgery, and because Paul farms, he didn't want to be recovering from
surgery when he needed to be doing the spring planting. "I wanted to be ready to
go without a problem," he said.
So they chose Jan. 18.
two very small incisions - for the instruments and the tools - and one
larger one were needed. "They've changed the surgery so it's not so invasive for
the donor," Paul said. "They're very confident people."
Paul was in the hospital for three days
following the surgery.
"The toughest part for me was afterward. Is it
really going to work? You just count your blessings that everything works," Paul
He was told to recuperate fully for four weeks before getting back
to work full time. "Two weeks afterward I felt really good," he said.
can't say enough about support from family members and neighbors at that point.
His younger brother stepped in to do the chores around the farm.
own kidneys had to be removed, and were covered with cysts. Together, they
weighed 13 pounds, and were the size of footballs.
"I never really had
any pain, though," Leon said. "As bad as they were, I never had any
Right away after the surgery, Leon could already see the
difference the new kidney was making. "You wouldn't believe the change in me in
just 24 hours," he said.
But his adrenal gland had that new kidney
working hard - too hard, really, and Leon became dehydrated. Once doctors got
that regulated, things were much better. The other complication Leon has
encountered is post-operative diabetes. But it's regulated with insulin, and he
can definitely feel the difference.
He's stronger, and Paul says the
surgery really hasn't slowed his father down.
"If you look at him now
versus how he looked in the last year, you can really tell the difference," Paul
Leon takes a number of medications now to fight rejection, but
blood pressure medicine is not one of them.
"It's been a blessing in
disguise to get off the blood pressure medicine," he said.
family has the utmost respect for the technology available through Rochester's
Mayo Clinic. There, some five or six kidney transplants are done each
"We never realized how many people this does affect," Paul