Stephanie Gienger will soon receive a kidney transplant, but needs help from the community to cover the first month of post-surgery living expenses

by: JASON CHANEY - Stephanie Gienger, who will soon have a kidney transplant, poses for a photo with her husband T.J.

Stephanie Gienger cried tears of joy when she first learned that her brother was a perfect match for a kidney transplant.

After enduring a full life with kidney complications and daily dialysis for the past two years, the Prineville resident and mother of four could finally anticipate a life free from major health problems.

“I think about all of the things that I’m going to be able to do that I can’t do now,” Gienger said, fighting back tears. “During the weekdays, I go to bed so early, so I can get off the (dialysis) machine early enough to take my daughter to school,” she said. “So, on the weekends, I try to stay up later and then I can’t go to church. We stopped going camping and everything, because it’s too hard.”

Gienger was born with a deformed bladder, which caused reflux to go back into her kidneys. While she lived with this affliction, it wasn’t until she became pregnant with her first child that she learned the severity of her health problems. From that point on, she began to see a nephrologist on a regular basis.

She recently seemed to catch a break when she participated in a year-and-a-half clinical trial for some new medication. The pills seemed to make a big difference. She would find out after the trial ended just how much they had helped.

“Three weeks after I got off the clinical trial, I started feeling really weak and tired,” Gienger recalls. “I couldn’t open jars, I couldn’t brush my own hair. I was so tired.”

Her doctor performed some tests and the following day told her she would have to begin dialysis.

Two years later, she is awaiting transplant surgery after taking an arduous path to become eligible for the new organ. She has made several visits to Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland when she endured “all kinds of horrible tests” and lots of blood work.

“They continually check her overall health,” said T.J., her husband. “They don’t want her to have any infections whatsoever. She can’t even have a toothache.”

So far, Gienger has passed all of the health checks with flying colors.

“My doctor tells me just to remember I am healthy other than I have no kidneys,” she said with a laugh.

Having overcome the obstacles of becoming eligible for a transplant and finding a donor match, only one hurdle remains.

“I have to be over there (in Portland) for a full month afterwards,” Gienger said of her post-op plans. “They only keep me in the hospital for about a week, but I have to stay close to the hospital after that and I have to go in every day to have blood work done.”

This presents a substantial financial hurdle that her family would struggle mightily to overcome on their own. Her husband is a full-time student, so their income is very low. Further adding to the financial burden, their kids will have to stay home to continue attending school.

“Not only are we going to have to figure out how to live out there, we have to keep the electricity and stuff on for the kids here,” she said.

Consequently, she is turning to her community for help. Gienger has opened a donation account at Home Federal Bank to help cover the living expenses she will face after her transplant operation. She is hoping to raise about $3,500 before having the surgery, which is tentatively planned for spring break so her children and husband and children will miss as little school as possible.

Gienger was reluctant to open the account, but was talked into it when her mother pointed out that she lacked any other way to cover the costs.

“I had a really hard time,” she said. “I actually cried. I don’t want to ask people for money.”

No concrete end date has been set on the account at this point, and the surgery date is not set in stone either. However, if everything goes as planned, Gienger hopes to have the surgery late next month, and eventually return home an otherwise healthy person.

“What I am looking forward to the most is having the energy to do the things that I love to do,” she said.

A donation account for Stephanie Gienger has been set up at Home Federal Bank in Prineville. The money will help her pay for her living expenses during the first month after her kidney transplant surgery.

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