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Patrick Springer, Published July 10 2010

MeritCare doctor performs 400th kidney transplant

Kae Erickson used to require three hours of kidney dialysis treatments three times a week, a time-consuming regimen that made it difficult to leave town.

Now the 71-year-old Minot, N.D., woman has been liberated from dialysis, thanks to a transplanted kidney donated by her daughter, Helen Walker of Moorhead.

On Wednesday, Erickson became the 400th kidney transplant recipient performed by Dr. Bhargav Mistry at MeritCare Transplant Services in Fargo.

“I’ve got my life back,” Erickson said Friday, meeting with reporters in her hospital room to mark Mistry’s milestone surgery. “It’s really a gift of life.”

Mistry, who performed his first kidney transplant at MeritCare in 2000, said the ability to have a transplant program in Fargo, which also performs transplants of the pancreas, spares patients from the need to go out of state for the service.

“The incidence of kidney disease is rising, especially as we are aging,”

Mistry said.

To date, MeritCare’s transplant program has performed 583 kidney transplants since it was established in 1989.

“I wish we could do more transplants,” the surgeon said, “but we are limited by the number of donors.”

He encourages people to become organ donors – and to consider live donation – a plea Erickson joined in making.

More than 2,600 people in the Upper Midwest are waiting for life-saving donor transplants, according to LifeSource, a nonprofit organ transplant organization.

Erickson, who has diabetes and high blood pressure, knew she was susceptible to kidney disease, but she didn’t know she had advanced kidney failure until blood work for a cardiac stent procedure revealed the problem.

“I didn’t really seem to have any symptoms,” she said. She expects to leave the hospital Monday.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522