St. Meinrad man seeks kidney

Herald photos by Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald
Steve Sitzman, right, and his wife, Judy, sit in their barn at their property in St. Meinrad on Tuesday. Steve has been on a kidney transplant list for two years now. Because he is so close to kidney failure and can't risk getting sick, he was unable to spend Christmas with his grandchildren who had the flu. "It's kind of tough on me," Steve said. "They want to go up here all the time and do stuff. Since they've been sick, I have to stay away from them. I don't want to, but I have to. I can't afford to get sick." Steve and Judy have been married for 40 years. "It's a lot of worrying," Judy said. "It could change our whole life."

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

ST. MEINRAD — Steve Sitzman’s life could soon change forever.

The 64-year-old St. Meinrad man’s kidneys have been failing steadily for years, and if he doesn’t receive a transplant soon, he’ll need to begin dialysis treatments that could reshape his future.

Out of options and struggling to find a kidney, Sitzman took his plea public in May with advertisements in local media.

He’s still searching for a match more than half a year later.

Now, Sitzman is hopeful that someone reading this story can help.

“I know lots of people and lots of people know me,” reads a quote in the advertisement. “I’d like to believe that someone out there is willing to help me live a longer life and spend more time with my family and friends.

“Sure, I know it’s a lot to ask, but friends and family always seem to come together when someone’s in need. That’s why I’m asking now.”

Steve Sitzman leans on his truck after working at his property in St. Meinrad on Dec. 31.

Sitzman’s kidneys are currently functioning at 9% of their ability, and if that number drops two percentage points lower, dialysis will become a thrice-weekly ritual in his life.

“It’s just a matter of time,” Sitzman said. “A kidney, it won’t regenerate itself. It won’t get better.”

Several potential donors have undergone phone screenings to potentially give a kidney, he said, but “as of right now, nobody’s matched up.”

According to the National Kidney Foundation, most people with one kidney live normal, healthy lives. One transplanted kidney can work as well as two, and in general, most people with a single, healthy kidney have few problems.

The cause of Sitzman’s troubles remain unknown. They could be genetic, inherited from his late parents. But there’s no way for him to know.

Doctors couldn’t tell him why his kidneys were failing, and that bothered him. Because that meant he couldn’t take steps to save them.

A test during a physical examination uncovered very high levels of protein in his urine, signaling a problem. A kidney biopsy and followup tests showed the organs were failing progressively.

He compared kidneys to air filters used in farm equipment. Those filters are designed to capture dirt, while the kidneys serve to filter blood.

“But my filters got holes in them, and [they don’t] filter my blood out,” he said of his internal cleaners. “The toxins keep going through my system.”

Steve Sitzman oils is equipment on his property in St. Meinrad on Dec. 31.

If Sitzman doesn’t find a donor soon, dialysis machines will complete that process for him. He knows people who undergo the treatment, and he knows it can be time-consuming and exhausting.

He also knows that the hourslong procedures can be expensive.

“So, that’s kind of why I’m pushing,” Sitzman said. “If I can get it out there more, maybe I can land a kidney somewhere.”

If and when he begins dialysis treatment, the fate of his family business could also be affected. He owns Sitzman Construction Company, and he operates equipment for the St. Meinrad-based excavating operation.

In the advertisement that ran in the local papers, a photo shows Sitzman holding his now-16-month-old grandson, Jaxson. The boy loves riding in bulldozers and playing with excavator toys, and Grandpa has thought about the possibility of one day passing his business on to Jaxson’s generation, if they want it.

But that could depend on Sitzman’s future.

“I’m running out of options,” he said. “I gotta figure out if I gotta sell some of my equipment off, or what I gotta do.”

He is on the transplant list at the University of Louisville Health’s Jewish Hospital.

But he is still waiting.

Those interested in donating a kidney or learning more can contact Sitzman at 893-0509, or his wife, Judy, at 686-0883. More information regarding kidney donation can be found at kidney.org.




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