A reason to give thanks

Ron Burtz

There are two families in Custer who will have much to be thankful for when they sit down to Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, thanks to a precious gift given from one church member to another.
Adam Muhm and his family will celebrate the lifesaving new kidney he received Nov. 10 and his kidney donor, Lisa Trana and her family, are basking in the joy of being able to share life with a member of her church family.
Trana, a member of Southern Hills Bible Church in Custer, said her involvement in the situation began on a Sunday morning last winter when an announcement was made asking for prayer for Adam. His parents, Angie and Dale, attend the same church. It was announced that Adam’s kidneys had shut down and he was rushed to the hospital for emergency dialysis.  
A Custer resident who completed his homeschool education in 2018, Adam now lives in Belle Fourche. His kidneys have been failing his entire 22 years of life, he just didn’t know it until about a year ago.
Doctors discovered the illness when Adam’s vision started to go blurry. In checking his blood pressure, they found it was “through the roof”—220/170.
Further tests determined the reason his blood pressure was so high was that his kidneys weren’t working. That started a regimen of kidney dialysis to purify his blood three times a week for the next eight or nine months. He had to quit his job and go on disability. He was told his kidneys were too far gone to save and the search for a donor began.
Enter Lisa Trana.
On another Sunday in April, Adam was included as part of the church’s corporate prayer time and it was mentioned a kidney donor was needed.
“I was sitting right behind Angie,” said Trana, “so after church I kind of tapped her on the shoulder and asked what it takes to see if you’re eligible to donate.”
Muhm responded by handing her a card with a phone number to call to start the vetting process.
Trana called the number the very next day and underwent “some extreme counseling” on the phone. She was sent forms to fill out including a health history and was then cleared for blood work and a urine sample. At that point she says she did not even know if she was the same blood type as Adam.
As the process progressed over the next several weeks, tests were done to determine whether Trana was healthy enough to be a donor. Blood was drawn from both of them and sent to the transplant center to be tested.
“They put them in together to see if they play nice,” explained Trana.
Once it was determined they were compatible, Trana then underwent counseling in Rapid City with a team of five people including a coordinator, an advocate and a surgeon.
Later in the process Trana underwent a CT scan of her kidneys to determine if her blood vessels lined up with Adam’s kidney structure. That was a green light too, but even then Trana says doctors and technicians cautioned her not to get too excited.
But then in August, on the first day of school, her phone rang. It was the transplant center telling her she was approved as a donor for Adam.
At that point the reality of the situation began to set in for Trana and especially her family. Her mother and her husband Joe began to express concerns about the safety of the procedure for the wife and mother of three young children and everyone started pressing the brake pedal.
The Muhm family, as well, slowed the roll on the process, waiting to see if someone else might be a match.
While she was wrestling with the fears and concerns of her family, she listened to a sermon Sept. 12 that had been recorded by the former pastor at Southern Hills Bible Church, J.O. Oesterling. It was a message about Christians bearing one another’s burdens.
One statement from that sermon especially got her attention: “As a Christian family we consider it pure joy to lay down our lives for each other.”
Hearing that message strengthened her resolve and her family’s objections began to lessen as well.  
Trana says one thing that began to turn the tide was learning that the National Living Donor Foundation would pay all her expenses for mileage, lodging and so on, relieving her of that burden.
With all the doors now open, the surgery was scheduled for early November.
Joe’s mother agreed to help out with the Tranas’ two school-aged sons and Lisa’s mom said she would drive her to Sioux Falls and look after 4-year-old Eliza while she was in the hospital.
So on Monday, Nov. 8, they headed out on the six- hour trip to Sioux Falls, where Trana would undergo preoperative work and blood draws for a final crossmatch before the surgeries.
After a free day on Tuesday during which they visited the Great Plains Zoo, it was up before 5 a.m. the next day to walk from their motel to the hospital with Adam’s fiance.
Angie and Adam drove in for the surgery and the little party said a prayer together in the lobby before reporting to the pre-op area. That was only the second time Adam and Lisa had met, the first time having been a casual meeting at church before the whole ordeal started.
The surgeries conducted in adjoining operating rooms were completed in about 90 minutes and Trana said as she was just coming out of the anesthetic, Adam was being wheeled into the same recovery room.
Lisa’s surgery was conducted laparoscopically with her kidney being taken out through a 2 inch incision at her navel. She said she feels fine now and has taken no pain medication other than Tylenol. Her only restrictions are not being able to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for the next six to eight weeks and no running.
As for Adam, it was reported that as soon as Lisa’s donated kidney was hooked up to blood flow it began to produce urine and his recovery has been swift.
He said from the moment he woke up from the surgery he felt much more energized, which his doctors said is a good sign showing the kidney is filtering as it should. It is keeping the vital nutrients but filtering out what his body doesn’t need.
“I feel a lot better,” he said. “They said I’ll probably notice it more once I’m completely healed.”
Released from the hospital several days after the surgery, Muhm was required to stay in Sioux Falls to make sure his body didn’t reject the new organ. He said he is no longer on pain meds and is not having any ill effects from the anti-rejection medications which have not even needed to be adjusted.
While out of the hospital, he is required to stay in Sioux Falls for up to four weeks but says he is up and walking as much as he wants and is no longer on pain meds. He is also not having any ill effects from the anti-rejection medications and his doctors haven’t even had to adjust them.
When released from the care of the transplant center he plans to return to Custer, where he will stay with his parents until released to go back to work. When that happens he plans to go back home to Belle Fourche and his job as a heavy equipment operator at Couer Mining’s Wharf Gold Mine at Lead.
“It’s just amazing,” said Adam of the gift he has received. “A completely selfless gift. She pretty much made my whole life possible at this point.”
Part of that new lease on life is that he and his fiance Shayla have been able to set the date for their wedding, which is scheduled for the fall of 2022.  
Adam’s parents are overwhelmed with the enormity of the gift as well.
“I just cannot think of a word that describes what I have been privileged to watch from the sidelines,” said Angie, “as a dear friend willingly, selflessly and without displaying any fear of the unknown stepped up to the plate and underwent a surgery she didn’t have to in order to bear a burden for someone she had only met after she became his donor.”
Angie, who has known Lisa for about a year, said it didn’t matter to Lisa that she didn’t really know Adam.
“She knew me,” Angie said. “She saw my burden. She responded to the call. The only way I can think of to explain it is God’s grace. He teaches us to bear the burdens of fellow believers. The love and care Lisa has shown has been an extension of that grace and care God gives to His children. He works in ways that are often mysterious by human standards but nothing short of awe-inspiring when we trust Him and it causes us to give Him glory for all He has done.”
“Our family cannot thank Lisa enough for her sacrifice,” she said. “Her willingness to step up to the plate and literally give a part of herself to allow someone else a longer life by God’s grace. It is a true gift of love.”
Lisa’s thoughts about her sacrifice have much the same ring.
“There was a member of my church family with a burden and I wanted to help bear that burden,” she said.
Lisa said her relationship with Angie has grown through the experience and she has gained other blessings as well.
“I’ve been gifted more through this than anybody,” she said.
In one more development for which to be grateful, Adam learned over the weekend that he is to be released from Sioux Falls by Wednesday at the latest and will be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family in Custer.

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