FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A South Whitley man with a rare autoimmune disorder says he’s lucky to be alive. Last year his doctor told him he needed a kidney from a living donor. Thankfully, he found a donor and just had his six-month post-op appointment.
Tony Klepinger’s donor is already someone special to him: his wife Julie. He says her act of selflessness has brought them even closer together.
Thursday marked an important milestone at Lutheran Hospital for Tony Klepinger. He has fully recovered from his kidney transplant and is healthy again. In 2001, Tony was diagnosed with a rare disease called nephritis.
“What happens usually is the body for some reason thinks the kidney is foreign and so it will attack it,” Nephrologist Dr. John Ducker explained
Tony was able to control the disease for close to 12 years with diet and exercise. But last year his health took a turn for the worse.
“I would get tired easily, and I had some joint problems,” Tony Klepinger said.
Tony’s sister and his wife Julie were both matches. His doctor was concerned about Tony taking a kidney from his sister though, especially since their mother also has the disease.
“It was possibly heredity and so they decided to go with her instead of my sister.”
His wife Julie said when they met and he told her about his disease, she always knew if he needed a kidney she would be willing to donate.
“It was definitely worth it to see him feeling better and recovering,” Julie Klepinger said.
“I would say it saved my life. Because if I eventually didn’t and be on dialysis eventually it would probably take my life,” Tony explained.
The Klepingers say the journey brought them even closer together.
“There’s an organ of mine in him! That has definitely grown us closer,” Julie said.
Both Tony and Julie say they feel healthy and back to normal. They’re busy with their two young daughters and training for their next triathlon. They hope their story inspires people to consider being an organ donor.