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Ellsworth graduate donates kidney

POSTED: December 11, 2013 12:14 p.m.
Courtesy Photo/

Brett Rathbun, right, and his cousin, Josh, are shown with friends in the University of Kansas Medical Center shortly after Brett donated a kidney to Josh.

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In this season of giving, Brett Rathbun’s gift to his cousin will last a lifetime.
Rathbun, 28, recently donated a kidney to Josh Rathbun, 27, Wichita.
Both donor and recipient are doing well after surgery Oct. 22 at the University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City.
“The day before I got out of the hospital, Josh’s lab work looked better than mine,” Brett said during a recent visit to his hometown of Ellsworth. “He did have a lot more energy than I did.”
Brett said Josh’s health issues came to light this past April, during a trip to Australia, where Josh went to work as a chef. Josh  fell ill and went to an emergency room for treatment. Doctors told him his kidneys were barely functioning.
Back in the United States, about a half-dozen friends and relatives were tested as potential donors. Brett and Josh’s father, Randy, both qualified.

Brett was chosen because of his age.
He didn’t have to think twice about agreeing to the procedure. Brett had done his research and he also possessed medical knowledge — he is a medical laboratory technician with the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Sheppard AFB, Wichita Falls, Texas.
Brett said everything moved quickly — he was tested in August, interviewed in September and scheduled for surgery in October. The short-term goal was to prevent Josh from having to go on dialysis. It wasn’t to be.
Brett said his cousin was forced to start treatments three weeks before the surgery.
As for his role, Brett encountered minor hurdles along the way.
Brett needed and received permission from top U.S. Air Force officials to take time off from his duties for the kidney donation. Kansas friends in Texas staged a fund raising event to help pay for his lodging and other expenses.
An occasional smoker, he had to give up cigarettes a month before the surgery.
“Overall, this is probably going to improve my health,” said Brett, who also has to monitor his blood pressure and pay more attention to his diet.
Before the operation, he met with the surgeon, a social worker and others to make sure he was prepared mentally and physically.
“For some reason I wasn’t too nervous,” Brett said. “I’d done research and the success rate is pretty high.”
When the day arrived, Brett was in surgery for three hours. He was in the hospital for three or four days. Josh left after five days.
“Usually it takes time before a kidney starts to work. In this case, it started working right away,” Brett said.
He was sore for awhile, but eventually left Kansas City early to visit Ellsworth before returning to Wichita Falls. This week, Brett said he has had no lasting effects from the surgery.
“I feel pretty much back to normal,” he said.
Josh also is doing well, he said. Doctors think his kidney problems may be inherited. Brett said their great-great grandfather had a similar history.
“Josh may have had this his whole life and didn’t know it,” Brett said.
Brett said he has no regrets and is grateful for the support he received from his girlfriend and parents.
Brett is the son of Cheryl and Cory Rathbun of Ellsworth. Ronnie and Betty Rathbun, also of Ellsworth, are the grandparents of Brett and Josh.
Brett is a 2003 graduate of Ellsworth High School.

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