Elkhorn family looking for live kidney donor for sick husband, father of three
ELKHORN, Wis. (CBS 58) -- It's not hard to tell Ken Lamster is a family man.
When you walk into the Lamster family's living room in Elkhorn, you're treated to smiling family portraits on the walls, hats and memories from past vacations. On the fridge, an ice cream drawing designed by the family's youngest member, Avery, hangs proudly.
It's also easy to see Ken Lamster is a man of God. He plays guitar every other weekend at the Lakeland Community Church. Decorations containing religious epithets are sprinkled in among the family photographs, a sign faith is present in home. Faith. It's something Ken and his family have had to rely a lot on over the better part of the last decade.
"Seven years now," Ken explained. "I found out I had Polycystic kidney disease."
The diagnosis was a shock for the father of three and his wife, Megan. A hereditary disease, nobody in Ken's family before him had ever been diagnosed with the disorder, which sees numerous fluid-filled cysts develop in the kidney. This causes high blood pressure, back pain, headaches, blood in urine, urinary tract infections and finally, kidney stones, the condition that had brought Ken to the hospital in the first place.
"My kidney function at the time was 65%. I had a kidney stone and they said, 'Hey, good news, your stone's not there anymore but we see where it was," Ken recalled. "Has anybody ever told you about kidney failure?"
Fortunately for the young family, the condition acts slowly and the kidney failure was still about seven to 10 years out.
"We kind of just lived our lives for the last seven years," Megan explained. "He wasn't very symptomatic until his kidney function really dropped further. Then we really started noticing kind of the impact on just his daily functioning."
Ken's kidney function dropped from about 65% to roughly 8%. In November of 2021, he was placed on a transplant list and started dialysis treatment, a medical exercise that removes the toxins from his blood, something his functioning kidneys would do.
"It takes five hours a day, three days a week," Ken said, talking about the dialysis treatment. "If I don't have dialysis, I would die."
Ken has also been placed on an organ transplant list. According to Megan, it could be sometime before a suitable kidney is available for the father of three.
"He's on the list for five to seven years," Megan said. "That's the minimal wait time.
According to organdonor.gov, 105,000+ people are currently on the national transplant waiting list. Every nine minutes, another person is added to that list.
With his youngest daughter, Avery, getting ready to start third grade; his daughter, Kaylin, ready to start middle school and his son, Noah, preparing for sophomore year of high school, Ken and Megan are hopeful he will be able to put the dialysis and illness behind him with the help of a live organ donor.
"A living donor is quicker, generally, and the health of the kidney is usually better," Megan said. "The kidney starts working quicker if it's a living donor versus a deceased donor."
Nearly 6,000 living donations take place every year. After Megan and several other family members were turned away due to medical conditions of their own, the family has decided to ask the community for help, starting the Ken Needs a Kidney Facebook page, and even painting a message on the back of the family's minivan: 'Husband/Father of 3 Needs a Kidney'.
"We don't love having to ask strangers or family or friends to get tested. That's not our love," Megan explained. "It's necessary for him to live."
Fortunately for Ken, should a healthy, willing donor come along, finding a compatible match shouldn't be too much of a challenge.
"Good thing is blood type," Ken said with a sense of optimism. "Luckily, it's a universal recipient blood type. I can accept any blood type so it just relies on any particular person being healthy enough to donate."
To do so, a potential donor would call Froedtert at 414-805-0310 to start the screening process. If deemed a compatible donor and the surgery goes to plan, Ken could be back in good health in four months, leaving dialysis and the unknowns of the transplant list in the rear view mirror.
"It can be pretty life-changing," Ken said, discussing the possibility of receiving a new kidney. "To be able to have a kidney. To be able to function medically and physically, mentally, time back in my day from 15-hours a week from dialysis, being gone, and being able to function with my family and my loved ones, it's a big deal."
As Ken remains hopeful, Megan remains confident.
"We know it's going to happen. We have faith that it's going to happen and I think our struggles help to build us and grow us and make us more empathic and just understanding that there are hard things in this world," Megan said. "That's just kind of how we've looked at it and will continue to look at it."
Anyone interested in becoming a live donor is encouraged to start the screening process by calling Froedtert at 414-805-0310.
Those interested in supporting the Lamster's financially can donate to their GoFundMe page by clicking here.