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Local woman needs public’s help to get kidney transplant

Michaela Emerson (right) stands with her two sisters Shelby (left) and Danielle. 1 / 2
For the last five years, New Richmond native Michaela Emerson has been on dialysis in need of a kidney transplant. (Submitted photos)2 / 2

Michaela (Kayla) Emerson admits she’s a shy person.

That’s why it took her a long time before going public with her story.

Yet, going public is Emerson’s last hope at a chance for a normal life.

Since 2009, the 29-year-old New Richmond native has experienced kidney failure and has been on dialysis awaiting a kidney donation.

Emerson’s only hope for getting a kidney is through the Paired Exchange Program. It’s for people who want to donate a kidney for a loved one but end up not being a match, so instead it goes to someone else the same day your loved one receives a kidney from another donor.

At this point, she has no donors, so she needs to get the word out.

“The last 10 years I’ve had nothing but surgeries, medications and appointments,” she explained. “Every night I hook up to a machine so I can live. I don’t know how I do it, but I do.”


Growing up, the 2004 New Richmond High School graduate had repeated kidney and bladder infections causing her kidneys to deteriorate. She was eventually diagnosed with polynephritis, an inflammation of the kidney due to a bacterial infection.

By April 2005, both of her kidneys were removed -- “there was nothing more that could be done” -- she said. The following month, she received her first transplant from her older sister Danielle.

Emerson said it started out as a good match.

Those feelings didn’t last long as she started feeling worse. After the fourth biopsy, the results showed the immunosuppressant medication gave her a blood disorder that caused blood clots to form in her kidney.

The kidney deteriorated even more by 2009 when she went into failure. She has been on peritoneal dialysis ever since.

According to the Mayo Clinic, peritoneal dialysis is a way to remove waste products from your blood when your kidneys can no longer do the job adequately. During peritoneal dialysis, blood vessels in your abdominal lining (peritoneum) fill in for your kidneys with the help of a fluid (dialysate) that flows into and out of the peritoneal space.

One of the benefits of peritoneal dialysis is that she can give herself treatments at home, which she does every night.

When asked about her overall health, she replied, “Once I have a transplant, I’ll be completely healthy.” But, the clock is ticking, because as she later stated, with an organ problem, it puts additional stress on the rest of the body.  

Hope and relief

Emerson had been a patient at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) in Minneapolis when the kidney failed.  

Doctors were pretty blunt with her after that moment.

“They told me with my antibodies being so high and the multiple blood transfusions, I would need an almost perfect match,” she said.

Crushed by that, her spirits picked up when she went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where they told her about the Paired Exchange Program.

“The surgeon recommended the more people willing to donate and be part of this program, the better chance I will have in finding a match,” she said.

But, she has to do the work in finding donors.

That is why the shy Emerson has started coming out of her shell. She works part time at the Barnboard in Roberts and said “there were a lot of people I became close with and felt comfortable telling my story.”

Two of them are area residents Bill Gnatzig and Keith Knutson, who are more than willing to help. They encouraged her to share her story.

“She’s not giving up,” Gnatzig said. “She’s always smiling.”

Knutson also commented on how impressed he’s been with Emerson’s perseverance.

The process in wanting to donate a kidney is so simple, the three of them said. If interested, parties can call toll free 1-866-227-1569, which will start the process in donating a kidney. Mayo will then send a blood kit that potential donors can bring to their local clinic. After that the individual would be put on the donor list at Mayo. However, Emerson said if a person has kidney disease, diabetes or lupus, they can’t donate.

For more information, contact Emerson at 715-220-6065.

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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