Springfield husband’s long journey to find perfect match for a kidney transplant turns out to be...his wife

Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 8:03 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A Springfield attorney who’s been struggling with kidney failure for years finally has a chance for a new lease on life through a kidney transplant from someone who’s been right there all along.

Bob Grosser, who works for the firm of Rooney, McBride, and Smith, has spent the last 17 years of his life dealing with an incurable illness known as ANCA vasculitis, an autoimmune disease that attacks small blood vessels that can affect all parts of the body.

“It caused hemorrhaging in my nose to where I had a hole in my septum area,” Bob explained. “It caused bleeding in my lungs and my kidneys. When it first started, I was coughing up blood and was diagnosed with pneumonia. But after being treated a few times for that I came into the doctor’s office with a water bottle half-filled with blood and things took on a more serious turn with the diagnosis of the vasculitis that was killing off my kidney function.”

Despite trying all kinds of medications and treatments, Bob’s kidney disease got so bad that by 2020 he was on dialysis.

“It’s essentially 12 hours a night,” he explained. “It starts at 6:30 at night and ends at 6:30 the next morning.”

Over the past three years, Bob has twice been scheduled for kidney transplants only to have them fall through. On the first occasion, he was to receive a kidney from his son but another unexpected health problem kept that from happening.

“I ended up having a stroke,” he said. “I kind of decided at that point I wasn’t going to use my son again. It seemed too risky because I don’t know if there’s a chance that someday he could end up with the same illness as me and only have one kidney left. Then he’d be in the same boat as me.”

After two failed transplant attempts Bob had pretty much decided that a deceased donor might be his only hope as his medical condition kept vacillating from tolerable to horrible depending on the success of the treatments he was getting.

“For me the worst time was this past winter when the medications were really taking a toll on me,” Bob recalled. “I decided if it was going to be like this for the rest of my life, I didn’t see wanting to move forward. I talked to my kids about it and scared them all.”

But that’s when his wife Wendy stepped in.

“He had reached a low point and as a wife watching him struggle all these years it was just really hard to watch,” Wendy said. “So I decided I was going to go through the testing while we were in a waiting period. I called KU Med, scheduled an appointment, went there by myself and low-and-behold, I was a direct match!”

“I figured there was no way she was going to be a direct match,” Bob said. “I have ‘O’-negative blood, which is great for donating blood but it’s lousy when you’re having a kidney transplant. So she’s been a hero to me because not only is she saving my life but she’s saving someone else’s life because it’s one less person on that list. Everyone moves up on that list. There’s over 160,000 people each year who need a kidney and only about 10,000 get them.”

The chances of a husband-wife match for a kidney transplant are 1-in-100,000 which is why the idea of Wendy as a donor hadn’t come up sooner.

“I knew about the odds of a spouse being a match and I didn’t even think about having her check which I know might sound silly,” Bob said. “Plus the doctors had told us someone would need to be the care provider for me after the surgery and Wendy was always going to be that support person. She got much more excited than I did when we found out she was a match. I’ve been much more conservative in my excitement because I’ve already been through this twice and it didn’t work out. But when they put me on that table and wheel me into that operating room I will be excited.”

So now this married couple of 32 years with three children, one grandchild and another grandchild on the way will hopefully be headed to a new, improved life together as they travel to Kansas City this weekend (Sept. 16-17) for the operation. Bob expects to be in the hospital for 5-7 days while Wendy will be in for 2-3 days. They will then go through a series of doctor’s appointments and check-ups for another month before being cleared to return.

Wendy knows that she is taking on a risk but says it’s well worth it.

“After watching him be tethered to a 17-foot tube and not being able go past the couch in the evenings, that is no way to spend your life,” she said. “And I would encourage people to be a donor and to think about how you can help somebody else. Whether it’s donating blood or organs you can literally save a life.”

“It usually doesn’t happen but the illness can still attack the new kidney,” Bob said. “But if everything works great, it’s the rest of my life.”

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