Father’s Day was celebrated early for the Sanden family, and for good reason.

On Tuesday Robert Sanden, who works in Red Wing, received the lifesaving gift of a kidney from his son, Ricky Sanden, of Kasson.

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to top this one,” Ricky said. “Expectations better not be high,” he said over the laughter in his father’s hospital room.

Back in late 2018, Ricky got tested to see if he was a potential donor match for his father. He decided to get tested after his sister, Cassie, determined she would not be able to donate a kidney.

Ricky kept the fact that he was getting tested a secret from his dad.

“I didn’t plan it originally,” Ricky said, but when he found out his sister hadn’t told their father he was being tested, he decided to make it a surprise.

In February, after lengthy testing determined Ricky was healthy enough to donate, Ricky called up his dad to let him know he could be his donor.

“He cracked up pretty good,” said Ricky.

“When we we got the call that Ricky was a match, I think we cried all night long,” said Kerry Sanden, Robert’s wife. “Tears of joy, of course.”

Long journey

The journey of getting the transplant had been long for Robert, and not easy.

Robert found out 12 years ago that he had polycystic kidney disease, which is a hereditary disorder that causes cysts to develop within the kidney and causes the kidneys to lose function over time.

Two years ago, Robert was put on the list to receive a kidney donation, and in February 2018 he started dialysis. Robert had been told by doctors that the estimated minimum wait to receive a kidney was five to eight years.

Robert and Kerry were devastated when they found out that Robert’s daughter would not be able to donate a kidney.

Even if Cassie had been able to donate it, there was the possibility that she would be a carrier of polycystic kidney disease, and as a result would not have been able to donate anyway.

“I told him (Ricky), Cassie is not getting it done, you’re up next,” Robert said.

Ricky is Robert’s adopted son, so not being genetically related increased his chance of being able to be a donor, because he was less likely to be a carrier of his father’s kidney disorder.

In order to become a donor, the blood and tissue type of the recipient and the donor must be compatible. Beyond that, the donor has to meet many other health requirements and go through extensive testing.

Ricky went through seven hours of testing every day for about a week.

Donors needed

While the process of becoming a donor is difficult, Ricky assures others that they shouldn’t be afraid to donate.

In the United States, there are close to 95,000 people on the waiting list for a kidney donation, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing‘s list.

“I had a few friends ask me, ‘Does that change your life drastically or anything?’ All the information I have gotten, they’ve said no,” Ricky said, “and I feel really good so far.”

Ricky even decided at the last minute to donate bone marrow.

“Well, I’m already going to be open, why not,” Ricky said. “This is my first time, I guess I went big.”

Less than 12 hours after surgery, Ricky felt well enough to walk over to his father’s room to watch the Twins game with his dad, which surprised the hospital staff.

Going forward, Ricky will only have to make some diet changes.

“I like salt a lot, and they are making me get rid of that,” he said.

If Ricky were to ever have kidney troubles in the future and need a transplant, he would be put close to the top of the list.

For Robert, there will be many changes going forward.

During the first year, he will have to be careful because his immune system will be weaker. For now, Robert will try to stay active and take more precautions at his maintenance job for the Red Wing school district.

“They keep telling me I am going to feel so much better. I can’t wait,” Robert said.

Two days after the transplant, Robert was feeling good. The entire family is grateful for Ricky’s donation.

“It’s just really amazing that Ricky has done this for his dad — for our whole family, really,” Kerry said.

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