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Schneider thankful for kidney transplant

Ramona Schneider underwent a successful kidney transplant last month in Madison. The El Paso native's surgery was such a success she was home a day earlier than expected. Photo by Jason Schulte

EL PASO -- Ramona Schneider said it felt like she won the lottery.

The El Paso resident wasn't talking about a big win at a casino or having a set of numbers bounce her way. No, Schneider was referring to something bigger, as last month she received a new kidney.

"I feel really lucky," she said. "I'm so thankful I got a transplant. I didn't think I'd get one this soon."

Schneider underwent the successful transplant Oct. 6 in Madison. Her recovery went so well she was home Oct. 10, a day earlier than expected.

"Someone must have been looking out for me," she smiled.

The beginning

Ramona and husband Dennis live on over 350 acres in the Town of El Paso, on which they presently raise about 50-60 cows.

In the summer of 2006, Ramona was out working one day when she felt a sharp pain near her stomach. Thinking it was an ulcer, she went in to the doctor and got it checked.

Results said otherwise, as it showed her kidneys were beginning to fail. This came as quite a surprise to her.

"I had no idea at the time," she said. "My counts never showed it and I had excellent blood work-ups." Ramona always underwent check-ups, as she explained she had a genetic kidney disease. Her mother underwent a kidney transplant 35 years ago at the University of Minnesota.

In July of that year, she spent three days in a hospital due to a low temperature and after that, as she phrased it, "everything kept going south."

Two months later in September, she was put on dialysis, which is primarily used to provide artificial replacement for lost kidney function. Due to where she lived, she was able to go on the kidney transplant list at both University of Minnesota-Fairview (December 2006) and Madison (January 2007).

The call

Schneider was following doctor's orders to the word because, as she phrased it, "I wanted an excellent match. I wanted the best one possible."

Included in that was following a diet eliminating high phosphorus foods such as pizza, peanut butter, ice cream, chocolate, cheese and nuts.

"I ate a lot of apples," she joked.

The concern, she said, rested with her antibodies, as her doctors told her her body would reject nine out of 10 kidneys because of it. Also, with her blood type, which was AB positive, she could have any donor from a live person, but if it was from the deceased, it had to match her type.

Therefore, she explained training taught her to not get her hopes up when getting a call because some people have waited up to five years and everything might not fall into place once there.

"I knew I was going to get one, it was just a matter of when," she said.

Plus, she figured she wouldn't get a call until after her blood was cleaned, which was scheduled for next April.

Those plans all went out the window when she got a call from Madison on Oct. 5.

"I was told the donor was on life support and near death, and that I had four to six hours to get down there," she said. The donor matched her blood type.

So, as a precaution, she convinced Dennis she would go down there by herself in case it didn't work out.

Fortunately for Schneider, everything did and, the following night, her surgery was scheduled. Dennis, along with the couple's two children, Ray and Emily, rushed down to Madison for the surgery.


Ramona was told an average transplant surgery would last between four and six hours. Hers was done in less than 2? hours.

"Everything fell into place," she said.

Recovery was going smoothly, as she said her counts were excellent and her blood work was normal. However, there was a minor hiccup: Dennis came down with strep throat after the surgery and was asked to leave her hospital room.

"They told him to get out of here now and go see a doctor because she won't be able to come home because of the medicine," she said.

She explained the biggest concern after surgery would be rejection, with the greatest worry being in the first two weeks. She passed the six-week mark last week.

She said that, before all this occurred, she wasn't going to be an organ donor. Afterwards, doing some research, she changed her mind.

Overall, Ramona thanked everyone for their help--friends and family in helping out with the farm to the medical staffs at Luther Hospital in Eau Claire, along with Madison and University of Minnesota-Fairview.

"I can't say enough good things about them," she said.

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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