FARGO — They’ve always been known as “Papa and Peanut,” and last week, he received from her the most generous of gifts.
Danielle Scheie, 35, donated one of her kidneys to her ailing father, Bruce Scheie, 71, on May 18 at Sanford Health in Fargo.
“She gave me the gift of life,” he said, clutching his daughter’s hand as they recounted the experience.
But the COVID-19 pandemic caused the selfless gesture to happen later than they would have liked .
Bruce Scheie, a longtime high school teacher and girls basketball coach in the area, had a 20-year history of dealing with kidney stones.
More than two years ago, after a bout with back pain, he was found to have stage 4 kidney disease, the last step before kidney failure.
His options were to go on to dialysis, a regimen that removes waste and extra fluid from the blood like healthy kidneys normally do, or hope for a donor.
Waiting on a transplant list for a deceased donor to become available could take as long as five years, he said. A transplant from a live donor could happen much sooner, and Bruce and Karen Scheie’s three children were all willing to be tested to see if they were a match.
Danielle was the only one living in Fargo.
“She said, ‘I’ll do it,’ just like that,” her dad said, snapping his fingers.
His youngest daughter turned out to be a great fit for donation, he said, matching all six transplant parameters, including blood and tissue type.
Both went through all of the physical and psychological benchmarks required to ensure they were ready for the procedure. Then, it became a waiting game, to see how long his deteriorating kidneys would hold out.
“I kept getting tired and kind of slowing down,” Bruce said, and father-daughter decided the time had come.
The two got word in early March that the transplant surgery could be done March 23.
“I was just so excited for him to start feeling better,” Danielle said.
Final blood tests were done and everything looked like a go.
But within a day or two, she said, came word that the pandemic was forcing the cancellation of surgeries and making hospitals conserve resources for critically ill patients.
“It was just really back in this limbo,” she said.
Finally, a new transplant date of May 18 was set, a full eight weeks after the original one.
They took care to quarantine themselves the entire time, and the weekend before surgery, both had to have a COVID-19 test to be sure they weren’t infected.
Going into the surgery, it looked like they might not be able to have visitors due to concerns about COVID-19. The father and daughter weren’t sure they'd even get to see each other in the hospital.
But two days into recovery, Karen Scheie was able to visit, going back and forth between the two rooms, and all three of them were eventually able to be together.
The two patients have had rough patches during recovery with pain and other issues, but are doing better now and are able to take short walks.
Danielle, a dedicated runner, said she’ll probably have to wait until July to begin training again.
Her dad said he feels selfish about receiving her kidney, wondering whether he should have waited it out on the transplant list — a sentiment she quickly shot down.
“I’d do anything for you,” she said.