Barbara and Jerry Rusk
Barbara and Jerry Rusk

North Georgia News readers respond to plea for kidney

A new kidney can mean the difference between life and death for people on the transplant list. Kidneys are especially needed from donors with type O-negative blood since only six percent of the population has this blood type.

Mrs. Teresa Gunn's photo and story was reprinted in the August 2, 2006 edition of the North Georgia News. "She is holding out hope that God will bring someone who will give her a kidney," reported Rob Moore, of the Northeast Georgian newspaper. Many people commented on the article and asked about Teresa's status on the kidney transplant list. As of Friday, August 18, she was still waiting.

One Union County resident, Mrs. Barbara Rusk wants the public to know about her family's recent experience with a kidney transplant.

Her husband, Jerry, received a kidney from his son just two weeks ago. Barbara says, "Maybe if people read about our experience they will be inspired to become a donor."

Jerry Rusk's surgery was performed on July 18, 2006. Barbara adds," He went from being a sick old man, to being a vibrant fun-loving grandfather."

It is amazing how much the new kidney helped. Rusk looks healthy and has energy to do things again. He will have to take expensive immune suppressant drugs the rest of his life, but it is well worth it.

Son Mike Rusk donated the new kidney - a gift of life. He was the only family member with a perfect match of type O-negative blood.

Two weeks later and Mike is completely recovered. He is back at work and exercising. (Mike runs and swims regularly.) Mike says, "All I felt after the operation was a little soreness and indigestion. I encourage everyone to think about being an organ donor, at least donate blood and sign up as a donor on their driver's license."

There are over 500 people on the list at Emory Transplant Clinic waiting for a cadaver kidney. Without a family member or willing donor, a person can wait for years. By then, health is failing and results are not as dramatic.

Barbara and Jerry Rusk explained about the process. It takes a lot of preparation to be a donor or recipient once the decision is made. There can be no infection or disease present. Even dental work has to be up-to-date; all cavities have to be filled. A person must have a clean bill of health. This helps prevent rejection.

Barbara says, "Jerry's insurance covered Mike's medical expenses. The donor doesn't have many out-of-pocket expenses to worry about. The recipient's insurance usually picks up all donor expenses. Please stress this point."

"I also want to thank my children for their support through all of this. We want to thank the Blairsville community for their phone calls, cards, and prayers. We live in a place where people care about their neighbors."

Jerry and Barbara Rusk have four children and only one was a match. "We went through periods, especially during the last week before the transplant, when we would hold our breath. So many things have to be considered. The slightest infection and the surgery would have been cancelled. Now we feel very blessed."

Jerry is currently retired from the construction industry where he was a builder for many years. He is well known in Blairsville for his involvement with cub scouts, little league and other sports. He says, "We have eight granddaughters and one grandson. Since getting a new kidney, I expect to see them graduate."

Barbara currently works two days a week in a family relations program out of Gainesville. She is well known in Blairsville, Georgia for her work with DFCS and other social services. "I am making Jerry a long honey-do list. It's about time he gets busy."

Jerry Rusk is definitely a success story. Perhaps someone reading this article will consider donating an organ to Teresa Gunn. The technology is available. All that is left is a willing heart.