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Benefit set for family of Ellsworth area motorcycle fatality victim

Rhonda Huber's family knows what it's like to face significant medical expenses.

Two years ago, Huber of Ellsworth received her second kidney transplant. Last month, the 51-year-old wife of Jim and mother of Cody, 17, died in a motorcycle accident southeast of the village.

Her husband and son are starting to rebound from the shock of that sudden loss, her father-in-law, Eldon Huber of Ellsworth, said Friday. The former has returned to work at Danny Hager Sanitation and the latter is working at Plummer Concrete.

But they need the public's help to deal with expenses. Huber said the family and their friends are sponsoring a benefit in loving memory of Rhonda on Saturday, Aug. 2, from noon to 4 p.m. at Vino in the Valley, W3826 450th Ave., Maiden Rock.

The meal will feature a pig roast at a minimum donation of $5, he said. There will also be a Chinese raffle and silent auction, along with many prizes.

Rhonda Huber went through health-related ordeals during her life. According to an article in the Oct. 11, 2006, Herald (after she'd gotten that second transplant), she had been born with urinary reflux. By age nine, she was dealing with the effects of a failing kidney, experiencing infections, becoming anemic and requiring blood transfusions. Between ages nine and 17, she got sicker, suffering nose bleeds, cramps in her fingers and legs, was feeling nauseated and always tired.

"Your kidneys do a lot," she was quoted as saying in the article, explaining they regulate the acid base, the blood pressure, and the amount of calcium and phosphorous in the bones.

In the fall of 1974, the Boyceville High School student woke up one night unable to breathe and was rushed to Rochester, Minn., for medical care. There, specialists told her parents she would have died in another two hours without medical attention.

She spent the next eight months on a dialysis machine while waiting for her first transplant. It took three calls about getting a kidney before it finally happened. The surgery lasted over six hours and there were complications, including her potassium and her blood clotting on the kidney machine three times. She stayed in the hospital for three weeks, then lived in a small apartment for five months, having her blood checked daily.

She underwent several setbacks following the transplant, such as a couple of grand mal seizures and foaming at the mouth. She never learned the cause. She also had a bout with viral meningitis. She took anti-seizure medication for nearly 10 years and was immediately put on anti-rejection medication, which increased her susceptibility to infections.

Although the average length span of a transplanted kidney 34 years ago was five-to-seven years, hers kept going (both of her own kidneys, her spleen and appendix had all been removed, so the transplanted one was her only one). Around 2001, it began failing. Various medications were tried and it stabilized for awhile, yet started deteriorating faster in the fall of 2005.

The search for a donor for her second transplant got underway in March of 2006. A sister, Debbie, was ultimately approved to be the new donor and the second surgery, in July of 2006, lasted around three hours. When interviewed for the '06 Herald article, she said the kidney from her sister "feels like it will do okay."

Read more in the print version of the Herald July 23.