My spare, with care: Tonganoxie man receives kidney just in time for Valentine's Day

Michael Kelly of Tonganoxie, seated, gathers with his kidney donor, at left, Deb Simmons of Lawrence, and Kelly's surgeon, Dr. Mikel Prieto, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Kelly successfully received one of Simmons' kidneys on Wednesday, Feb. 6. Enlarge photo

February 13, 2019

Michael Kelly has two Valentines this year in a February he likely never will forget.

The Tonganoxie attorney, who has battled kidney problems much of his life, successfully accepted a donated kidney from Deb Simmons of Lawrence last week.

Kelly, who had been on dialysis for years and had to have a hand amputated due to other health issues, said he felt like a new person after his five-hour surgery Wednesday, Feb. 6 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

“It’s a world of difference,” said Kelly, who noted there were times during his journey he wanted to give up. “It’s like a great weight has been lifted off of me. I was always sluggish and tired. I suddenly felt like my body has been cleaned out and refreshed.”

In fact, Kelly was recovering faster than Simmons. As she explained, it takes her some time to get over her nausea with any anesthesia.

“He came to see me twice,” Simmons said. “He was walking the halls before I was every able to walk.

“He looked great immediately. My kidney started producing in the operating room and has been doing tremendous for him.”

Minnesota in February can be brutal. Simmons said she was worried she might fall in the snow or ice and injure herself. After all, she was carrying precious cargo for Michael. But everything went through has planned.

“I think we were both happy that it worked,” Michael said. “We’re celebrating in quiet tones because it’s still a tenuous procedure.”

Simmons, of course is one Valentine for being a match and donating her kidney after wondering for months whether a match ever would come along. The other, of course, his wife, Keyta, who donated one of her kidneys nearly 20 years ago when Michael needed one at that time. During the quest to find his new kidney, Keyta was diagnosed with breast cancer. But she successfully fought her own medical hardships and has been with Michael for every mountain and valley.

Keyta said that Michael instantly looked like a new person after the surgery.

“My reaction is — it’s a miracle, actually,” Keyta said. “It’s a day we didn’t think we’d ever see.”

Plenty of love surrounded the donor and the recipient. Garrett, Michael and Keyta’s son, came in from Chicago, while sister Jackie Himpel of Basehor and Jim Kelly of Lenexa also made the trip.

Simmons’ son, daughter-in-law and niece also were there with her.

It’s been a winding journey, but yet a small world — Simmons learned about Michael’s need through her cousin in Texas who is married to another of Michael’s brothers.

Michael and Keyta stressed the importance of family, friends and prayer during this ongoing journey.

As for Michael, there won’t be any special Valentine’s Day meal out on the town, but he is able to have more of a regular diet now.

Oh, and chocolate. He’s loves chocolate.

Just in time for a special day, though for Michael, he knows every day is a special day.

“It’s a remarkable experience to go through,” he said. “I don’t wish it on anybody. But when you get back to normal, it feels so great.”

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