by Marlys Kruger
One year ago, I wrote a story for our Christmas issue concerning former Colfax resident Renee Wininger (Scheidecker) who donated her kidney to a complete stranger through the National Kidney Registry. Although Renee made a complete recovery from the procedure and was living a normal, healthy life, she was thrown a curve ball this past October when it was discovered she had a brain tumor.
“I was sitting around with my family watching a Packer game on a Sunday in October and I sneezed really hard,” Renee said. “It made my head hurt really bad. Later that evening, I sneezed a few more times and every time I did my head just throbbed. I didn’t think that was normal so I went into Urgent Care at Mayo Clinic on Tuesday to have things checked out.”
Dr. Catharine Decker did a few quick tests and noticed Renee had a crooked smile and her peripheral vision on one side was not normal. She had Renee go to ophthalmologist Dr. Joseph Dolan who did a few more tests. He didn’t think it was anything to worry about but decided Renee should have a brain scan done for precautionary measures.
“I was in total disbelief when they told me I had a tumor the size of a lemon in my temporal lobe,” Renee said. “It was scary but I was so glad they did the test and found the problem right away. They told me I would need surgery immediately but they thought they could get most of it out. They also told me I might experience stroke-like symptoms after the surgery including vision problems, numbness in my limbs, problems with reading and writing and even a change in my personality,” she added.
Renee had the surgery Oct. 28 and amazed herself and her family members when she came out of the three hour operation with no visible signs of any medical problems.
“Dr. Ajir from California was flown in to do my surgery and he is truly amazing,” Renee said. “Normally it would have taken eight hours but he told me he was very good at his job and he had it done quicker. There were no fingers leading out from the tumor so he managed to get it all out. In most cases with a large and complicated tumor like this, there is a 30% chance of it returning but Dr. Ajir did such a good job, the chances of me getting it back are at 4%. The hardest part was waiting 18 days before the biopsy was done to see if it was cancerous or not. It turned out it was not, so I am very lucky.”
Renee recovered at home for several weeks in Eau Claire but returned to work Dec. 8.
“I feel like I am a living miracle,” Renee said. “After donating my kidney to help someone a year ago, maybe this is a way of showing good things can happen in bad situations. First of all, having my doctors find the tumor right away, then not having any of the problems associated with having it removed, and then finding out it is benign and the chance of it returning are very low, make me really grateful to the medical staff that took care of me. My family and friends have all been so great throughout the ordeal and I just feel blessed that I am the same person I was before the surgery. Things happen for a reason and I believe in “Paying it Forward” so maybe I can help someone deal with a difficult situation like this and show that positive results can come out of a negative situation,” she added.