‘Don’t lose hope’ Hospital worker donates kidney to patient


ST. LOUIS – Ryan Elbert who lives near Milwaukee is married, happy, and hoping to soon start a family. However, his high school years in St. Louis were not so enjoyable.

Elbert was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure in 2005. The kidney condition required dialysis which the ongoing treatment was emotionally and physically draining.

“Every ounce in your body, every cell in your body feels like it is attacking you for doing this to it,” Elbert said. “It’s an extremely, extremely tiring process to go through dialysis.”

Elbert was a patient at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. Erin Foristal, transplant coordinator at the hospital, helped watch over Elbert when he was a patient.

“He missed out on a lot of high school fun,” Foristal said.

When Elbert turned 18, he was still in need of a successful transplant. Adults often have longer wait times for a donor. Foristal decided to ask Elbert if he would let her donate one of her kidneys.

“It was an awesome, awesome gesture,” Elbert said.

Foristal and Elbert underwent successful transplant surgery at SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital.

“I donated on a Wednesday and was back at work the next Tuesday,” Foristal said. “It seemed like a pretty easy thing to do to make such a difference in somebody’s life.”

Foristal witnessed, through her job, the difference a living donor can make. She now has an even more powerful perspective.

“A lot of kids want to know what a scar looks like after a kidney transplant,” Foristal said. “I can show them my scar.”

“If it wasn’t for an organ donation, I would not be sitting here in front of you today feeling as awesome as I do,” Elbert said.

“I live a normal healthy life,” Foristal said. “You wouldn’t know that I have one kidney.”

Elbert hopes those waiting for a transplant find hope in his fortune.

“Please don’t lose hope,” Elbert said. “You have many, many people pulling for you and you will get through this.”

Foristal said donors should know it is the recipient’s insurance that covers the cost of surgery. She said donors are also given a priority if they are ever in need of an organ.

April is Donate Life Month. Foristal and Elbert hope to encourage everyone to find out as much information as they can about becoming a donor.

For more information about transplant services, click here.

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