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4 kidney transplants and counting

By Dale Neilson

For Mormon Times

Published: Tuesday, July 5 2011 6:30 a.m. MDT

Teresa Rodeback has already outlived three kidneys in addition to her original two.

She’s on her "second lifetime" of kidneys. The second kidney lasted 22 years, while the third only 36 hours. The seventh anniversary of her fourth kidney transplant was Feb. 19.

Her initial thoughts of life after surgery are candid.

“You can get up and pee,” said the Washington, Utah, resident. “It was nice to be exactly human again. Others complain about going to the bathroom — what if you couldn’t go? Be thankful for what you have.”

Rodeback, 59, is humble and grateful for a longer life. She counts her many blessings — such as kidneys from four of her siblings — one by one. Her current kidney came in 2004 from sister Kristie after 18 months of dialysis.

Her first transplant came at 18 after a 1970 accident when a motorcycle handlebar punctured her right kidney. En route to the emergency room, “the doctor had to cut me open in the elevator and told me I’d probably be a vegetable (for life).

“I told him I’d rather be a cucumber,” she deadpanned.

There was trepidation embarking on her emotional roller coaster of transplant surgeries. She asked herself, “‘Why am I doing this?’ I was young and just being unhappy.”

Rodeback had just graduated from Kearns High School and planned to enroll at LDS Business College. After receiving her sister Marjorie’s kidney, she’s successfully navigated three more transplants — and counting.

Rodeback’s brother, Ryan, donated a kidney for her second transplant in 1979. She passed out in a college class and was immediately transported to University of Utah Hospital. In 1995, a hysterectomy cured cervical cancer. “I’ve had it all” in critical illnesses and emotional pain, she said.

Her third kidney was donated about 2001 by another brother, David, and initially did well. About 36 hours after surgery, she became ill.

Her bowel was nicked during surgery, she said, allowing waste to seep into her precious new kidney. “It was horrible,” she said.

She was placed in ICU, and the infected kidney was removed. Later, she returned to dialysis — which she hated — while awaiting another transplant.

“When you get off dialysis, you’re tired,” Rodeback said. “Then you feel better, but you have to go back on dialysis.”

She says her prayers for another kidney were answered with a fourth transplant.

“People say, ‘You must be some kind of miracle.’ No, God is watching over me every day.”

Scarlet fever afflicted her at age 12, which she says caused hearing loss and acute nephritis, weakening her right kidney.

She said small veins contributed to many transfusions after her first transplant. Shunts permeated her left arm and legs for a month, “leaving scars everywhere.”

Rodeback says she got osteoporosis because of taking prednisone to preserve her kidney. “I had an Erector set in my neck because the third vertebrae disintegrated, (which) held it all together.”

Additionally, she has screws in both thumbs and the index and third fingers of her left hand. Rodeback is limited in being able to bend her index finger.

She has shingles and sciatic nerve pain. “It may never go away,” she says, but a pain pill helps. She takes 22 pills daily.

Her kidney transplants indirectly caused other discomfort. She has a fistula in her right arm that “is now really, really painful. It feels like something is sticking.” The flare-up is recent, she said.

Despite the anguish, Rodeback said she receives great fulfillment as the caregiver for her 83-year-old mother, Irene Rodeback.

“She’s pretty brave. We have the courage and strength to fight it together. She’s never given up," Irene Rodeback said of her daughter, adding that people are always asking how she is.

"You have to live by faith," Rodeback said. "I ask Heavenly Father to help me through the day, especially when it’s a bad day. You’ve got to keep smiling. There’s no quitting.”

Four kidney transplants and related health issues have taught her that prayer is important “because it’s the best help you can get. Always keep in tune.”

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