The woman who will save the Ross Twp. Police Chief Darryl Haussler’s life with a kidney donation said the decision was simple, “God prompted, and I listened.”
Haussler, 53, suffers from a rare, painful and incurable disease called scleroderma and still has to go for dialysis three times a week, but not for much longer. Maria Wessel — who works with Haussler’s wife Debbie at U.S. Bank and goes to their church in Cleves — unbeknownst to the Hausslers had herself tested to be a kidney donor and is a perfect match.
“It was just God prompted and I listened, that’s really all it was,” she said. “I have two healthy kidneys, he needs one, OK I hear you I’m all in.”
She said Haussler being the man that he is made the donation decision easy.
“Anyone who has spent any amount of time with the Hausslers knows that honestly this is an honor,” she said. “He is a hero, he is an inspiration. He will change lives with his testimony, he will, but he needs to be healthy to do it. Insert me.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, scleroderma is a group of rare diseases that involve the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues — the fibers that provide the framework and support for the body.
In some people, scleroderma affects only the skin. But in many people, like Haussler, scleroderma also harms structures beyond the skin, such as blood vessels, internal organs and the digestive tract.
Haussler, who learned Wessel was a match on March 3, said no words can properly express what he feels about the gift he is about to receive and about the giver.
“It really still, even over a week later, has not totally sunk in just yet,” he said. “I’ve seen Maria three or four times since then and I look at her like, she’s donating a kidney and she doesn’t have to. She is doing this out of the kindness of her heart because she is that type of person … For her willingness to do what she is doing and donating me a kidney, is just, I don’t even know how to describe it really, it’s so selfless. It’s such a huge gift to give someone.”
He has been told, assuming his body doesn’t reject the organ, Wessel’s kidney could add 25 years to his life.
Debbie Haussler has been chronicling every step of their journey on her “Hope #healing for Darryl” page on Facebook, detailing every setback and triumph. She too said she was speechless when Wessel told them the good news.
“I will forever be grateful to Maria for giving life back to Darryl,” she said. “Only God can work in such a miraculous way, to have a dear friend be a perfect match for my husband.”
A year ago, the doctors were describing a very bleak picture of Haussler’s survival chances, as he was hospitalized 10 times over the span of 14 months, suffering numerous setbacks. Then last summer, he and his wife were in a horrific car wreck on Interstate 75, when a driver going 55 mph pushed them under the back of a semi.
Haussler lost multiple teeth, his nose was broken and he suffered some other injuries. His wife suffered a concussion, broken bones and bruises. He said everyone who has seen a picture of their crunched car said it was a miracle they survived.
“I can respond to it one of two ways, I can go into a corner and curl up into a ball and just, ‘Woe is me, life is so miserable,’” Haussler told the Journal-News previously. “But I’ve got kids, I’ve got grandkids to motivate me, and I want to live until I die. I don’t want to die before I’m dead. I want to be as positive as I can.”
Wessel said she was told she will be off work for two to three weeks and probably in recovery for six weeks before she be really active again. Although she said she has heard — coincidentally from the Hausslers before they knew she was a donor — that the surgery is really tough on the donor, she isn’t scared about the procedure they hope will happen next month.
“I’m kind of going into it blind, I’ve never ever had a surgery before, so it’s probably best I don’t know what I’m getting myself into,” she said. “I just have no fear of things like that, I have a really high pain tolerance and I heal really quickly. I’ve never had problems with things like that, labor and delivery was always easy for me, so I really have no fear.”
During his prolonged illness, Haussler was on leave but came back to work two days a week — when he doesn’t have to go in for dialysis — since last October. He said he will still have to deal with ramifications from his disease and take anti-rejection medicine for the rest of his life, but he is anxious to get back to work full time.
He said the township trustees and staff couldn’t have been more supportive.
“When they hired me they said it’s like family here and they have epitomized that in the way they’ve treated me since I’ve gotten sick,” he said.
Haussler was hired in March 2014 after the township successfully passed a police levy and reinstated a 24-hour police department. During his absence, Capt. Jack Tremain has been at the helm, running the department as acting chief. He is the only full-time employee, and the department has a dozen part-timers and two auxiliary officers.
Tremain is thrilled there is a donor for his boss.
“It’s fantastic news, we are very enthused about the whole thing,” Tremain said. “He’s going to get a new chance to improve his life. We’re 100 percent behind him and we have been ever since his illness started two years ago. We wish him the best … Hopefully he gets back sooner than later.”