Kelsey Krautkremer graduated from Champlin Park High School in 2011. After graduation, she attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) and is currently pursing her degree in Early Childhood Education. She has big dreams to become an elementary school teacher. But in spring 2013, those dreams didn’t seem possible anymore.
Kelsey had been diagnosed with chronic kidney disorder in 2009 and found out that her kidney function had recently deteriorated from 34 to 18 percent. For Kelsey, this meant that she would have to be added to the National Organ Donor List in hopes of finding a donor before her kidney function dropped below 10%. If she couldn’t find a donor, Kelsey would be put on dialysis to filter her blood.
“It would be really hard for her to attend school and go through dialysis,” said her sister, Jamie Krautkremer. “If she had been put on dialysis, the chances of her ever finding a donor would dramatically decrease.”
But Kelsey’s family and friends were determined to do everything they could to give her a normal life. And so, the Kidney for Kelsey campaign was born. Kelsey’s friends helped organize fund-raising events both at school and in her hometown of Champlin. They organized a bake sale, made T-shirts and bracelets and called businesses in Champlin to see if they would be willing to donate items, money or hold an event for her transplant. The Champlin theater where Kelsey works set out a donation jar and raised almost $1,000 for her surgery. Several businesses made donations to her silent auction and offered certain percentages of their sales to her and her family.
“We have raised between ten and eleven thousand dollars total, and since then there’s been the night at Dairy Queen, who donated 15 percent of every sale, the Sammy Perrella’s event and the Kidney for Kelsey Walk,” said Jamie. “The money that’s been raised will go to the donor’s hotel stay, food, transportation, work compensation, child care costs, if needed, and medical expenses. After the transplant, the remainder will cover Kelsey’s medical costs.”
More than 30 people were tested to see if they were a good match for her kidney transplant. Kelsey’s brother and sister were tested to see if they could help. The donor needed to have Kelsey’s blood type and ideally match at least three of the six recommended categories for transplant.
“I wasn’t a match for her,” said Jamie. “Adam had the same blood type, but didn’t meet any of the six categories so he wasn’t a good match.”
However, Kelsey’s uncle, Don Johnson, was a good match. He requested a kit, got his blood tested and set up appointments so they could run more tests. At the end of a three day evaluation the doctors that had worked with Kelsey and Don were sure his kidney would work for the transplant. So, her transplant date was scheduled for Aug. 6 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Just before her surgery, Kelsey’s kidneys were only functioning at 12 percent. She had side effects and needed to be monitored while she was being prepped for the surgery.
“Going in to the surgery I was a little apprehensive,” Kelsey said. “It was scary, but my uncle was right there by my side so that helped.”
Kelsey is now recovering at the Gift of Life. She hopes to be discharged at the end of the month and plans to attend her third year of school in the fall at UMD.
“I knew this wasn’t the end of my journey, it was just the beginning of a different one,” she said. “I know it’s only going to get better from here.”