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Transplanting hope: Benefit set for Sunday for Brad Martens

Brad and Amy Martens and their daugher, Aeniesha, are shown in a family portrait. Brad is in need of a kidney transplant after experencing sudden renal failure a year and a half ago.

WORTHINGTON -- For the past year and a half, Brad Martens has required five-times-a-week dialysis treatments in order to clean the toxins from his body.

The dialysis is necessary after renal failure; his kidneys ceased working properly to clean his blood of the waste matter that comes from the normal breakdown of muscle and food consumed. Without dialysis, the waste products, called creatinines, would build up in his blood stream to a toxic level.

“I felt aches and pains for years,” explained Brad of what he experienced before the renal failure diagnosis, “but I figured it was part of life. I had no major symptoms.”

The major symptoms came on a Sunday morning in December 2014. It was the day his daughter, Aeniesha, now 10½, was baptized at American Lutheran Church, as well as when he and wife Amy were joining the congregation. As the morning wore on, Brad began to feel worse and worse, and by the time the service was concluded, he and Amy decided medical care was in order. At the urgent care clinic, they ran tests that detected renal failure, and Brad was transferred to the emergency room for stabilization due to high levels of potassium affecting his heart, then airlifted to a Sioux Falls, S.D., hospital.

In the intensive care unit, the extent of the renal damage was evaluated through further testing.

“The next day I was transferred to the renal unit in the hospital and had surgery to have a catheter inserted into my neck so they could start dialysis,” Brad detailed. “I had my first treatment that night.”

The next day brought a kidney biopsy -- 40 samples were taken from his kidneys -- to further determine the extent of the damage and its cause.

“ … in my case, there was no function left and no known cause,” Brad said.

Brad spent the next week in the hospital, doing daily dialysis treatments to get his creatinine levels down to an acceptable level. Even after his discharge, he continued going to Sioux Falls for dialysis treatments, three times a week.

Brad and Amy then opted for a training regimen that would allow Brad to do the dialysis at home. The training took five weeks, and Brad also had surgery to form a fistula -- connecting an artery and vein -- in his arm to facilitate the dialysis process. It took six weeks for the fistula to form, then the catheter could be removed from his neck.

Amy, who is employed as an aide at South Shore Care Center, is able to help Brad with the treatments.

“She does most of the work,” credited Brad, who is employed at the Tru-Shine Truck Wash in Worthington.

The process takes about three hours, utilizing a machine that is about the size of a fax machine. The dialysis treatments have become part of the Martens’ routine, usually taking place after supper in the early evening hours.

Dialysis is currently a life-saving process for Brad, but he and Amy hope they won’t have to continue it for the long term. Brad’s name is currently on the active list for a kidney transplant, and they pray a suitable match can be found in the near future.

“It can be a two- to five-year wait,” said Brad, who anticipates the phone ringing to let him know a match has been found.

In the meantime, the Martens’ church family has planned a benefit to help with their ongoing medical expenses and anticipated costs of the transplant.

A pancake breakfast will be served from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday at American Lutheran Church, 915 Winifred St. Donations can also be sent to the church, payable to American Lutheran Church with “Brad Martens Benefit” in the memo line.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  

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