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Anderson to receive 'true gift of life'

Even though she must endure a second kidney transplant, Dorinda Anderson still considers herself lucky.

Lucky, that the first surgery carried her 29 years, when in all reality it should have been a much shorter time.

Lucky, that medical technology has advanced to the point that another transplant is a viable option.

And lucky, because she has a donor, thanks to the unconditional love of family members who had no misgivings about stepping up to the plate and providing a new kidney and a new lease on life.

Kidney disease has long been a factor in Dorinda's daily life, going all the way back to her high school days in Hazelton, N.D., when she first became ill and was told that she would eventually require a transplant. Following graduation, she moved to Bismarck, and it was while living there that her condition worsened requiring two years of dialysis, before undergoing her transplant procedure Valentine's Day, 1979, at Rochester, with her oldest sister Lorraine (Curt) Fischer of Hazelton the donor.

Dorinda spent three months recuperating, being monitored closely to ensure there was no rejection, all the while taking her medications and taking care of herself. "Things went really well, but it was nerve-racking," she said. "Five years is kind of a milestone. I made it past that and didn't have rejection and carried on from there. I've been really blessed, 29 years is well beyond the expected years for a donated kidney to last."

She emphasized that the one thing she doesn't take lightly is the fact the kidney "was a gift, and I was determined to take care of that gift. I think a positive attitude means everything, so I tried to stay positive and not worry about the future because that peace of mind was half of staying well."

The last few years there has been a slow deterioration of the kidney and health issues, indirectly related to the transplant, including high blood pressure and fluid retention, both common aftereffects.

"There has been a gradual deterioration," Dorinda said realistically. "I knew from the beginning I would need another transplant, and I certainly didn't expect the kidney to last this long."

Consequently, since mid-December, Dorinda has been undergoing dialysis three times a week, for three hours each visit, to help keep her healthy until her next transplant can occur.

She said she was shocked by the doctor's call saying she would need dialysis, but her 17-year-old son, Justin, quickly put things in perspective, telling his mom "you are lucky because you are in a situation where treatment can keep you healthy. That made me realize how really fortunate I am in that the dialysis really does provide me a means of life support, and for that I am very grateful."

The actual transplant itself is imminent but the exact date uncertain. At this point, barring any unforeseen complications, Dorinda's brother-in-law Tom Odden of West Fargo, married to Dorinda's sister, Bev, will be providing one of his kidneys.

He is more than willing and happy to be on the giving end. "It just seemed like the thing to do," he said. "There are so many people that really need this and there was no reason for me not to step up. It's important for people to really consider this. We were given two kidneys. One for me is fine, and Dorinda needs the other one, so for me it's not a sacrifice. I love Dorinda and she deserves it, so I am doing this for her."

Tom's selection was the result of a family meeting where six members made the list as potential donors. Tom was ultimately second on the list but moved up to number one, when the other top candidate was disqualified.

Throughout this whole process, Dorinda's entire family has been her much needed lifeline, including her husband, Larry, her other son, James, a senior at NDSU, and her sister and brother-in-law, Wanda and Lloyd Markey of Moorhead.

Dorinda said this second go-round is definitely different than the first when it comes to the donor. "The first time it involved a blood relative, but this time if there is a match with specific aspects, it doesn't have to be a relative. I am so lucky to have a family that is so willing to do whatever it takes. Everybody has been absolutely amazing."

The next step in the whole process involves Dorinda and Tom traveling to Rochester later this week to undergo further testing to ensure the whole process will be a go.

Dorinda said the surgery this time should be easier all the way around, both for the donor and herself. She is anticipating a month-long stay in the hospital, before heading back to West Fargo and ultimately returning to the work that she loves as the City's business development director. "I love this job and I love this community. I have the greatest job in the world and such an excellent support network. The people I work with are wonderful."

That support network is rallying around her this weekend as co-workers, family and friends plan a special benefit event Sunday, March 9, at Faith Lutheran Church, where the Anderson family are members. The event is being organized by City Hall employees Sharon Schacher and Verna Mangin, assisted by sister Bev Odden, and friend and business associate Kathy Lewin, who is coordinating silent auction items.

A freewill offering Spaghetti Dinner will be served from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall at 127 2nd Ave. E., followed by a silent auction. A bake sale will also be ongoing during the event.

A benefit account has also been set up at State Bank & Trust, where donations can either be dropped by any of the locations or mailed to P.O. Box 616, West Fargo, N.D. 58078.

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans has approved matching funds of up to $2,000 of the amount raised. Proceeds from the benefit will be used by the family for miscellaneous medical expenses, including travel to Rochester, taking up residence there during the recuperation period, as well as prescriptions, just to name a few.

The entire Anderson family will be in attending the benefit, ready to greet guests and offer their thanks.

Dorinda will also be using the occasion as an opportunity to impress the importance of organ donation. "I want to make sure that people think about being an organ donor. We never know what tomorrow will bring and we should all be prepared to help. So many people are waiting for kidney transplants that aren't as fortunate as I am to have a donor. Please find it in your heart to donate organs. It is so important for people to keep in mind and realize that they are truly giving the gift of life."