Ross chief and his kidney donor on the mend

For Ross Twp. Police Chief Darryl Haussler and his kidney donor Maria Wessel, the worst is over. Now the chief said the best thing he can do is take good care of her “gift.”

“It’s a tremendous gift and I’ll always be indebted to her, just for that mere fact alone,” Haussler told the Journal-News. “I’m going to do the best I can to take care of this kidney. It’s a gift, it’s a gift of life and I’m not going to take it for granted. I think the best way I can honor her is to take care of the kidney.”

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The pair were out of surgery Monday afternoon, and Wessel was released from the hospital ahead of schedule Tuesday. The chief was put in intensive care — because of his fragile health due to scleroderma — but he was in a regular room by Wednesday. He said he is in a good deal of pain but the new kidney is working well and the doctors are working on solutions to some of the surgical side effects he is experiencing.

Before the transplant, Wessel said she really didn’t want to know what to expect — she was told some people have an easy recovery while it can be agony for others — she said she is bouncing back nicely and should be able to drive in about two weeks. She should be fully recovered in six week.

“Overall I feel really good. I’m hopping, I’m moving, eating and drinking, and had coffee at 6:30 this morning …,” she said. “It would have been worth it if it was awful, but it’s not terrible by any means.”

Haussler said his kidneys quit working in December 2016 when he came down with pneumonia after the disease attacked his lungs and then affected his heart. He had a procedure to reduce fluid around his heart, but his blood pressure “went through the roof” causing a renal crisis.

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.

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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.

The disease in Haussler’s case also made eating solid foods nearly impossible. He lost 70 pounds, and some of his doctors’ predictions were dire.

“They didn’t come out and say it in direct terms, but there were a few doctors that didn’t give me much hope to survive at all,” Haussler said. “My wife and I had the hard conversations about what would happen if I passed away. But by the grace of God I’m still here.”

Debbie Haussler called Wessel a “lifesaver.” But it was an easy decision to make given the type of people the Hausslers are, Wessel said.

What amazes her is the impact their story has had on the community.

“So many amazing things are happening that really don’t have anything to do with me or Darryl, quite frankly,” she said. “It’s been an absolute joy to watch what’s unfolding from this event… there are just little things we notice that people are changing, and people are doing, and people are noticing, all just beautiful, wonderful things.”

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