In this podcast episode of One Bright Star – Life After Loss from the One Bright Star organization, Jonna Hruby talks about her role serving the community as a Funeral Director at Mankato Mortuary in Mankato, MN. Jonna is often one of the first people grieving families encounter following the death of a loved one, so she knows just how devastating loss can be. Listen along as she shares her experiences and offers her unique insight into the topics of death and grief.
Learn more about Jonna here: https://www.mankatomortuary.com/staff
Erica Fischer and Alicia More, interview with Jonna Hruby. “A Funeral Director’s Perspective On Death, Grieving And Loss,” July 18, 2022, in One Bright Star–Life After Loss, produced by Anchor, podcast, https://anchor.fm/onebrightstar/episodes/A-Funeral-Directors-Perspective-On-Death–Grieving-And-Loss-e1l9ncp.
Jere Solvie, Funeral Assistant at Pedersen and Starbuck Funeral & Cremation Service, shared a remarkable act of generosity and a life-giving gift when he became a live kidney donor. Every 9 minutes another person is added to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). His experience has been life-changing and Jere helps to raise awareness about the importance of donation by telling his story.
My name is Jere Solvie and I work part time for Pedersen Funeral Home in Morris, Mn. For the past year we have been on a journey to donate a kidney. It started one morning as I was doing my devotions and as I read from my bible about how everything we have belongs to the Lord, your talents, your possessions, and everything we have. I thought that would include body parts and we had recently learned of a family member in need of a kidney transplant. We have been blessed to enjoy so many activities with our grandchildren and if he would need to go on dialysis it would be difficult for him to enjoy similar times with his grandchildren. Dialysis is a lifesaving treatment, but a difficult way of life.
I made the call to my cousin and told her that I thought I could be a kidney donor for her husband. In the next days, we learned that I was not the same blood type, and I was disappointed that I would not be able to give to Lu. They explained, however, about a program called Paired Exchange. I would give to a stranger and in turn, Lu would be guaranteed a kidney from a living donor. A living donor kidney gives the recipient a longer life expectancy than a cadaver kidney. As soon as you donate in the Paired Exchange Program, the person’s name you wanted to give to goes into the national registry. On average, they will receive a kidney in about 90 days.
We read and signed a lot of papers and then I was able to start the initial tests at our local clinic. In June of 2021, I went to Fairview clinic in Minneapolis for a full day of medical tests. Over the next months, God brought us on a journey of trust. We tested and retested but in time, God cleared the way. This past February, I was accepted as a donor. My wife and I knew that the committee was meeting that morning so before I left the house we prayed. Within a couple of hours, I received the call to let me know my name would go into the national registry to donate my kidney to someone. Five days later, I received a call saying they had a recipient. We were told he was a 65-year-old man from MN. Surgery was set for Feb 17th.
On Thursday, the 17th, we arrived at the University Hospital Fairview at 5:00 a.m. I was prepped for surgery and at 7:30, I was taken to surgery. The procedure was uneventful and two days later, I was on my way home. We had learned that the recipient and I were in the same hospital. My cousin had been praying that we would meet the recipient before we left. That didn’t happen but, on the way home I was feeling very good and stopped to watch our granddaughter play a basketball game. At the game, some friends of ours had family visiting and when they explained that I had donated a kidney, their family responded saying “We know someone who received a kidney.”
Long story short, my cousin’s prayer was answered and within two days we knew the recipient’s name (David) and that he was from Anoka, MN. We have talked to David several times, usually for at least an hour each time. David told me he is adopted and had no brothers or sisters, so he feels he now has a brother that he never had. He has had five transplants that have been cancelled because the cadaver’s kidney was not in good enough shape for him to receive. We are hoping in the very near future to meet in person and what an exciting meeting that will be!
I would like to give you a quick update about Lu, my friend who we had first hoped to donate to. The transplant team wanted him to do another heart test where they insert dye into your heart to check for blockages. While doing his test, they discovered a 99% blockage in the “widow-maker” artery. They immediately put in a stint. He is doing great and his name has now been entered into the national pool to find his perfect match. This is just another miracle our Lord has directed during this wonderful journey. We have written down over a dozen miracles where God opened a closed door and made the transplant take place. All glory and honor to God!
I would like to say that was the end of our journey but one week later, I found myself back in the hospital and after lots of tests and hydration, I am home again recovering. I would use less pain medication and try drinking a lot more fluids if I had to do it over again.
Today, there are 500,000 people in the United States on dialysis. There are 90,000 people waiting for a transplant. In the United States, there are only 25,000 kidney transplants that take place each year. Twelve people on the waiting list die every day because the average wait for a transplant is 4 to 6 years. The need for kidney donors is so great. This journey has been led by God and has been life changing. If given the opportunity to be a donor, please consider it. As our Lord says, “It is better to give than to receive”. Now, I know this firsthand.
Jere and Paulette Solvie
Judy Popp-Anderson, Grief Care Coordinator at Bonnerup Funeral & Cremation Services, was honored as the Freeborn County Senior Citizen of the Year. The award is based on service and volunteer activities, and she was nominated by the staff at the funeral home. Judy hosts many meaningful grief care and suicide awareness events through the funeral home, and she also graciously volunteers her counseling services with several other organizations: Freeborn County Relay for Life, Mayo Clinic Hospice Grief Support, Freeborn County Crisis Response Team, and more.
But Judy’s special recognition does not stop there. At the Minnesota State Fair, she was also chosen as the 2019 Outstanding Senior Citizen of the Year for the state of Minnesota!
Steve Sheets is a longtime funeral director at Schoeneberger Funeral Home in Perham, MN. For the past 24 years, he and his wife, Lisa, have chaired The Giving Tree project, which works to provide Christmas gifts to area children who might otherwise not receive any. Steve and Lisa are responsible for fielding and coding requests for children in need, and the anonymous cards are used to decorate a tree at the ITOW Museum in Perham. Community members select a card, purchase the gift, and return it to the museum. Thanks to Steve, Lisa, and many generous community members, 220 children received Christmas gifts in 2018 through The Giving Tree.
Marilyn Claassen, support staff member at Bonnerup Funeral & Cremation Service, was named Freeborn County’s 2020 Rose Olmsted Advocacy Award recipient. Marilyn was chosen for her dedication and hard work in many areas of service such as Relay for Life and Alzheimer’s fundraisers. She is a local Red Cross instructor and has served as an EMT. As the activities director at Thorne Crest Senior Living, she was especially recognized for her advocacy for the elderly. Marilyn works to ensure the residents’ years in retirement there are as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.