Twin Cities man undergoes heart transplant, now needs a kidney

Organ donation can mean the difference between life and death and nobody knows that more than a Twin Cities man who underwent a heart transplant a few years ago and is now in need of a kidney.

Mark Pitzele is turning to a donor exchange program to find the perfect match.

The 51-year-old was featured in the Twin Cities Heart Walk after undergoing the heart transplant in 2017.

Now a survivor, Pitzele says he’s doing pretty well, but it’s the future that concerns him.

“Even though I look healthy now, it can change at any time,” he said.

As a result of his heart transplant, his kidneys stopped working. Three times a week he undergoes dialysis and the wait for a new kidney could be years.

“Because people on dialysis don’t typically live beyond seven years, depending on the situation, it is not the best opportunity to wait for a cadaver,” he said.

In December, Pitzele signed up for the National Kidney Foundation’s paired kidney exchange.

“It’s basically like a trade,” he said of the program.

If someone wants to give him a kidney, but doesn’t have the same blood type, the program allows that person to donate to someone they match. In turn, Pitzele would receive a kidney from a matching donor.

“It’s just such an uncomfortable experience to ask someone for something so special from someone,” he said.

Pitzele’s partner, Cindy Sorenson, launched several social media campaigns to get the word out and potentially save a life.

“I feel that I’m already so blessed because I already got a heart which isn’t an easy thing, and to have someone say I’m going to do this for you is just the greatest gift in the world and almost indescribable to say what that means to me or anyone receiving a donation like that,” he said.

Pitzele says that his health insurance will cover all of a donor’s medical expenses and he hopes that his story raises awareness about the need for organ donations.

You can find Pitzele’s CaringBridge site here.