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Emotions run high for transplant recipient

By: Josh Fernandez The Press Tribune
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An emotional – and, at times, frantic – journey in search of a kidney ended recently with a good friend from Idaho and one huge, collective sigh of relief. Rainee Sellers’ troubles began in childhood, when an autoimmune disease took its toll on her kidneys. For the past few years, she’s suffered the effects of stage four chronic kidney disease. Her symptoms – which include fatigue, weakness, headaches and high blood pressure – have gotten severe enough that doctors deemed it necessary for her to find a new kidney by the end of the year. At this time, more than 80,000 people in the U.S. are awaiting a kidney transplant, according to a statistic from the National Kidney Foundation. For Sellers to find a donor who matched her blood type – and also met a daunting array of additional criteria – wasn’t exactly easy. Her husband, Marc Sellers, who has been by her side throughout the whole process, said the experience of finding a kidney for his wife has been tough, to say the least. “There’s a whole whirlwind of thoughts and emotions,” he said. “And concerns.” The couple tested 42 people as possible donors, but had no luck. The last person on the list just happened to be their friend Rick Seher, who grew up in the area, but now lives in Idaho with his family. Seher was essentially their last hope. In a phone interview, Seher described what it was like to test for compatibility with Rainee. “It was late Thursday evening and I got a call from the transplant center (nurse),” he said. “And she goes, ‘I have the results of the bloodwork. You’re a match.’” From there, Seher knew what he had to do. The Sellers both say they are blessed by the circumstances and by their friend’s selflessness. “It’s more than just a neat coincidence,” Marc Sellers said. “It’s been a really spiritual experience.” Yet, they’re also feeling a certain amount of guilt. “(Rick) hasn’t competed in martial arts in a long time, but he’ll never be able to again … it’s like you only have one good kidney – we don’t want people kicking it,” Marc Sellers said, with his trademark sense of humor still in tact. But Seher is less worried about martial arts than he is about Rainee, whose kidneys now only function at about 18 percent. “I’m grateful that she’s able to live a wonderful life,” Seher said. “All she does is give.” Before kidney disease began to slow her down, Rainee was active in her church. She organized a hiking group and worked with the Elk Grove Fire Department. And, because she was born deaf, she’s learned to communicate through American Sign Language, which she’s used to become active in the deaf community. Her new kidney will allow her to do all those things again. Plus more. She’d like to hike longer distances and she plans on running a marathon. “And become a mom full time,” she said Tuesday in an e-mail. “Being a mom requires a lot of energy and I couldn’t do that either.” With help from family members, the local community and the Roseville Chamber of Commerce, whom Marc works with as part of his business, the Sellers are positive they’ll be able to drum up the estimated $5,000 to allow Seher to be out of work for two months as he recovers from the transplant. So, technically, the journey won’t end until July 26, when Sellers and Seher are scheduled for surgery at the UC Davis Medical Center. But the collective sigh of relief is certainly underway. “Obviously, the fear of going into surgery is scary,” Marc Sellers said. “But it’s hard to believe that it could very well almost be over.” Josh Fernandez can be reached at joshf@goldcountrymedia.com