One has to wonder- How does a person so physically fit end up on dialysis in need of a new kidney? Several years ago, Howard found himself experiencing health issues that he couldn’t explain. On the recommendation of his primary care doctor, Howard went to see a nephrologist for treatment of high blood pressure. Howard pushed for an answer because it simply didn’t make any sense that somebody as athletic and healthy as him would have HBP (high blood pressure) without an underlying cause. Yet the doctor didn’t see any benefit in pursuing the “why” and suggested Howard simply move forward and treat the HBP.
For the next several years, Howard was treated with HBP medication, treating the symptoms, still unaware the HBP was caused by failing kidneys while at the same time exacerbating the HBP- - a cycle that doomed him to future trouble. On a routine check-up in the fall of 2016, as Howard and Karen were leaving the doctor’s office, their physician casually asked if they knew about the different types of dialysis treatment available and said Howard was a great candidate for a transplant. Stunned and in shock, they stopped in their tracks. Not once in the past 4 years that Howard had been seeing his doctor had they ever been informed his kidneys were being negatively affected by the HBP.
Finding himself in End Stage (Stage 5) kidney failure, Howard faced an uncertain future which ultimately resulted in nightly dialysis and a search for a new kidney. The word went out that he was searching for a live donor and nearly a hundred people volunteered to be tested. Ultimately the best match was determined to be Michael Johnson, the husband of one of Howard’s ultrarunning athletes, Riva Johnson. Even though Michael had only met Howard briefly 2-3 times at Riva's races, he was instantly willing to donate his kidney to help save Howard’s life without a moment of hesitation.
For many that know Michael, his willingness to donate really does not come as a surprise. He was an officer in the Army for over 23 years; deployed as part of the first wave of troops on the ground in Iraq during Desert Storm and missed the birth of his daughter - but never complained. He loves teaching and mentoring people (especially fellow mathematical enthusiasts) to help them achieve their full potential - even at an expense of his own free time. Always willing to help a friend out, Michael would give the shirt off his back if they needed it (or a bike, or a power tool, or roof over their head for that matter). Michael’s life will be impacted by the surgery in numerous ways: time off of work for the surgery and recovery, physical limitations on what he can lift and move, and dietary restrictions. Perhaps the most difficult thing will be sitting still as he won’t be able to participate in his favorite pastime, mountain biking, for several months until medically cleared. Despite what personal sacrifices lie ahead - none of these things has deterred Michael from moving forward with the donation. He knows there could not be a more deserving individual to house his kidney; Howard is a fellow athlete, mentor, and all around great guy.
Now that a donor has been found, there remains only one problem. Howard and Michael live on opposite sides of the country – Howard in Virginia and Michael in Oregon. Fortunately, Howard’s health insurance will cover both surgical procedures but not any extra expenses associated with the donor’s travel. Michael will not be allowed to fly home for approximately ten days after the donation resulting in airfare, lodging, transportation, pet care, food and other miscellaneous expenses. Additionally, it is uncertain how long either Howard or Michael will be out of work recovering which could mean a loss of income for both families.
Please help make Howard’s kidney transplant a reality by getting Michael to the East Coast. All funds raised will be use to cover the costs that Michael and his wife incur during their surgery trip and post-surgery to include lost wages. Any remaining funds will go to Howard and Karen to pay for his current and future medical expenses.
Donating today helps get both of these athletes back to the places they love – using their bodies (and kidneys!) outside running and biking. Any amount, big or small, will help them cross the finish line and reach their goal.
Please help share their story with friends and family via e-mail, on your Facebook page, in Facebook groups, on Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest and any other form of social media so we can get Michael east and Howard healthy!
- Pete & Meg Lindner
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