The day is almost here when Ross Twp. Police Chief Darryl Haussler will be freed from the chains of dialysis after the person he describes as a “blessing” donates one of her kidneys.
Haussler, 53, suffers from a rare, painful and incurable disease called scleroderma, and soon his three-times-a week dialysis appointments will be a thing of his past. That’s because Maria Wessel — who works with Haussler’s wife, Debbie, at US 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.
After 10 hospital stays over two years, Haussler is actually eager for one more. The transplant is now scheduled for Oct. 22.
After Wessel learned she was a match in March, 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 told the Journal-News. “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.”
The chief was equally effusive about his donor.
“She’s just been a fantastic blessing in our lives,” he said. “I can’t say enough good things about her. I mean what do you say about someone who is giving you a chance at life? This surgery is going to change my life drastically.”
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 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.
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.”
He cheated death when he and his wife were in a horrific car crash on Interstate 75 one year ago. A driver rammed their vehicle going 55 mph, pushing 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.
Debbie Haussler has been chronicling every step of their journey on her “Hope #healing for Darryl” Facebook page.
She said she is excited and nervous for the transplant operation, but she won’t really believe it is going to happen until her husband is wheeled into surgery in two weeks. She said it is a “big” surgery for Haussler, especially given his “fragile” health, but they trust God will continue to look out for them.
“One of the things I think about a lot is God has brought him through so much to get him to here,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to believe he wouldn’t continue to make things better.”
There has been a huge outpouring of support for the Hausslers, numerous fundraisers, and he said he continues to get cards from people sending their well wishes and prayers.
Ross Twp. Administrator Bob Bass said Haussler brought a sense of professionalism that the police department was “longing for” when he arrived four years ago.
It is no wonder, he said, that Haussler has received so much love and support.
“It’s a matter of everybody being just in awe of how he has endured and his spirit of always keeping positive,” Bass said. “I’m sure there were times when he had to be close to saying enough is enough, but he just never did give up. He never quit trying. It’s just something that’s inspiring everybody.”
Haussler said the new kidney could add 25 years to his life. His scleroderma is in remission now, but he is still dealing with the lingering gastrointestinal problems. He continues to be on a feeding tube and doesn’t — or rarely — eats solid foods. After the transplant, he said his doctors have a plan to attack that side effect of the disease, but that is a ways away.
He said two things have kept him going.
“God and my wife. My wife has been a fantastic advocate for me. She’s given me strength when I was at my weakest point,” he said. “I wanted to make her proud of me. I wanted my kids to be proud of me. I didn’t want to have something happen to me and them to look back and say he didn’t do anything, he just let it take him without a fight.”
Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.