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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. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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