By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A chance encounter at a business meeting has helped a Minnesota woman lead a much better life.

WCCO shares how a kidney transplant sent a doctor at Mayo Clinic on a new mission to heal more patients just like her.

Jolinda Conzemius battled through to be able to raise her daughter and get to work each day. She was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease at the age of 12.

“I was struggling to breathe. I was struggling to eat food. I couldn’t sleep well. I couldn’t move,” Conzemius said.

“My kidneys grew in size to somewhere between a football each and a 2-liter bottle of coke each,” she said.

Family and friends weren’t a match to give Conzemius the kidney she badly needed. Until, a business meeting when she was teamed with a woman she barely knew.

“Six weeks later to the day we were in surgery and Dawn was basically saving my life,” Conzemius said.

Jolinda’s became the first laparoscopic surgery six years ago at Mayo Clinic to involve doing two things at once, removing her diseased kidneys and transplanting the new one.

“After doing this surgery separately for many years, Jolinda was the first one who came in and said can we do this all at once?”

Mayo Dr. Mikel Prieto made it possible. He’s done the same for more than 50 other patients since.

His study just published in the American Journal of Transplantation gives more surgeons a road map to do the same.

“Today’s success with kidney transplant is in the high 90’s and in this particular group this success rate has been 100% they all have done well,” Dr. Prieto said.

“I feel amazing. I run three or four times a week. I work out. I run on the treadmill. I think I’m probably one of the healthiest 49-year-olds out there,” Conzemius said.

That includes Conzemius. Who credits her doctor’s empathy for developing the dual surgery and for giving her the chance to dance at her daughter’s small wedding later this month. Something that not long ago, didn’t seem possible.

“By getting a living donor and having the surgery I will live an extra 40 years,” she said.

Without Dawn Odenthal’s kidney, Conzemius would have gone on dialysis and joined the list of 100,000  other people in the US waiting for a kidney. Conzemius hopes this story reminds people to consider kidney donation.  She says every healthy person has two and you only need one.

Liz Collin

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