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Giving a gift of life

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For some, when a family member needs something, there’s no doubt that the right thing to do is step up and give.

That was the case with two members of the legal community. Bose McKinney & Evans attorney Ron Elberger’s son Seth Elberger, now 33, gave him a kidney this summer, and 16 years ago, Justice Steven David gave a kidney to his 21-year-old niece. In both situations, the giver said there wasn’t much of a decision to make – it was just the right thing to do.

Ron realized he had kidney disease when he was traveling to Duluth, Minn., where his client, Aron Ralston, was going to speak and participate in an athletic tournament. Ron has represented Ralston since shortly after the hiker was forced to cut off his own arm after being trapped under a boulder in May 2003. Ron’s representation included a book and movie deal.

It was en route to that speaking engagement in September 2003 that Ron noticed something wasn’t right. Because he had an ileostomy in August 1980 – following the removal of his colon, large intestine, and part of his small intestine – the attorney was used to drinking a lot of water. But on that trip, he noticed he wasn’t drinking as much water and he had a fever.
 

elberger-mariners-15col Indianapolis attorney Ron Elberger, right, and son Seth, then 14, attend a Seattle Mariners game in June 1992. Ron served as counsel to the baseball team at the time. On July 13, 2010, Seth gave his father a kidney and both are recovering well. (Photo Submitted)

When Ron landed in Minneapolis, he called his brother-in-law who happened to be a physician in Duluth and explained his symptoms. His brother-in-law suggested he go to the emergency room and the next day, after various tests, it was clear his kidneys had shut down.

He said at that point it wasn’t a question of if, but when, his kidneys would fail him again. He tried a number of therapies and IV hydration. In September 2009, Ron and his wife started attending classes about managing chronic kidney disease, including what was required for a transplant.

On Dec. 29, 2009, Ron was back in the emergency room for tests. Shortly thereafter, he started dialysis.

The first type of dialysis he underwent required him to have treatments three times a week at 4.5 hours per session. It left him tired and unable to work at the level he was used to.

“That was unacceptable,” he said.

When he asked around, he discovered another kind of dialysis that required six days of treatment per week, but each was only two hours and three minutes, which left more flexibility. His wife learned how to administer the treatment, called NxStage. After completing the training, they were able to have a machine at their home, making it even more convenient.

“We did it with extreme trepidation and a lot of humor,” Ron said.

Around that same time, Ron said, “I was told it would be a good idea to let people line up to be a transplant donor. … I told my family first and put out a notice to my law firm.”

About two dozen people volunteered, and at one point Methodist Hospital, which would do the procedure, told Ron to tell people to stop calling.

“I didn’t know how many people had called. … The response was overwhelming and humbling,” he said.


elberger-bracelet Seth Elberger made this bracelet for himself and a matching one his father wears. The numbers are the date of the transplant: 07-13-10. (Photo Submitted)

Seth and a partner at the firm were the number one and number two matches, respectively. Ron added that his daughter, Becca Elberger Brown, wasn’t eligible to donate because she might have more children.

“For the most part, it was pretty cut and dry,” Seth said. “He’s family. That’s why I volunteered. When I found out I was eligible to donate and a match, I was pretty happy about it.”

Because he lives about 530 miles away in Marietta, Ga., Seth said when it comes to his father’s medical issues, “it’s easier to be in the dark than in the know so I’m not worrying for no good reason. … When he had kidney failure originally, I knew he’d need a kidney some day, but I wasn’t sure when. It was never a question of whether this was something I would do or not do, it was just a matter of waiting and seeing when I would need to get tested.”

On July 13, the transplant took place, and Ron and Seth were in the hospital for about a week. Ron said he felt better almost immediately after the surgery, while Seth said it has taken him some time to fully recover.

While everything went well during the surgery, Ron said he has had a few occasions where he needed to return to the hospital. His body was rejecting the kidney, and he required additional treatment. But things have been going well following those treatments.

As for work, Ron said he didn’t do any the first three weeks out of the hospital, but he began working from home in July, August, and the first part of September. He returned to the office the third week of September, and he said his workload as of late October was about 80 percent of what it was pre-transplant.

Ron said that his firm and clients have been extremely supportive through the entire process. In many cases, his clients waited for his recovery, and if they couldn’t wait, someone else from the firm temporarily took them on. If there wasn’t someone at the firm with Ron’s expertise, he referred the client to another firm that could help.

But when he is in the office – or any public place – he still needs to be careful. As part of his treatment, he is on immunosuppressant drugs, which make him more susceptible to disease.

The Indianapolis lawyer is not allowed to travel by airplane for at least the first six months after the transplant, but said he was happy that in his place, associate Megan Mulford was able to attend the London premiere of “127 Hours,” the film about Ralston’s ordeal. Mulford assisted Ron on the book and movie deals.

Seth continues to recover and said he expects to be back to normal in the next few months. He said he didn’t feel any lighter or any different than before the surgery, except he will notice the scar from time to time.

Justice David’s experience as a donor was similar to Seth’s.

“From my perspective and my family’s perspective, it was a no-brainer,” he said.
 

David David

His experience with kidney disease had been with his brother-in-law, who needed dialysis and ultimately received a kidney donation. So when his niece needed a kidney because she also had kidney disease, and because Justice David was in good health, “we started an amazingly complex yet simple process, which included multiple steps and tests.”

He added the results of his tests were confidential and he received the results when he was by himself in case he decided to change his mind, “something that hadn’t occurred to me,” he added.

Following the surgery, everyone recovered well. However, “I went back to work too soon. … It was just a little bigger deal than I thought. I thought I’d bounce back quicker,” he said. As a result, he had a few complications but said ultimately it wasn’t a big deal.

“I hope people will find strength in themselves to consider being an organ donor while still alive, or at least at death, so that life can be shared,” he said. “I just wish more people would donate blood, platelets, bone marrow … it’s amazing what we can do to save lives.”•

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  • Slow down
    I'm just thrilled Ron is doing so well. I don't see you as often as I used to but had heard about your illness. Good for Seth for giving you the real "Gift of Life". Take your time recovering!
  • A minor correction :-)
    The article satated, "In many cases, his clients waited for his recovery, and if they couldnâ??t wait, someone else from the firm temporarily took them on."

    Which might have been true, but the real story was that Ron was the one who couldn't wait for him to get back to work. Maybe the only person who was more impatient was Rena, who mostly wanted him back out of the house!

    I love you Ron, especially your tenacity.
  • I'm Ron's Sister
    Leave it to my brother to have dozens of people who want to get into his body!!!!!!!!!! We love him.

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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