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Hewitt man needs liver transplant

John Schmitz needs a lifesaving liver transplant, but the costs are overwhelming. Friends and family are planning a garage sale Saturday, Aug. 28 to help with the expenses.

Schmitz, 36, was diagnosed with hepatitis 20 years ago, and doctors believe he contracted the disease from working with cattle on his family's farm without wearing gloves. The hepatitis led to many other health problems, including a diagnosis of colitis two years later. In May, he learned he now suffers from cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholitis, which causes inflammation and scarring of the liver's bile ducts. Doctors say a liver transplant is essential to his survival.

A liver transplant costs approximately $500,000. Even with health coverage, Schmitz faces significant medical expenses. For the rest of his life, he will need follow-up care and daily anti-rejection medications. The cost of post-transplant medications can range from $2,000 to $5,000 per month, and they are as critical to his survival as the transplant itself.

Schmitz, a husband and father of two young children, has very little energy to spend time with his family. He works for a construction business, but his declining health limits his ability to work, adding to the financial strain.

The Schmitz family also will incur travel expenses related to the transplant, as the surgery will take place in Rochester, nearly 250 miles from their home.

To help offset these expenses, Schmitz turned to the National Foundation for Transplants for assistance. NFT is a nonprofit organization that helps patients raise funds to pay for transplant-related expenses.

"My heart goes out to the Schmitz family," said Carrie Berry, NFT fundraising consultant. "John's had to deal with more health battles than most people can even imagine, and he's only 36. At NFT, we're dedicated to helping John and his volunteers raise funds so he can concentrate on his health and his family."

Volunteers are holding a garage sale Saturday, Aug. 28 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Bertha Community Center, 127 Second Street NW. The sale will include household items, clothing, books, toys and more. NFT cookbooks and candy will also be available for purchase.

For more information, please contact Sandy at (218) 924-2706.

To make a tax-deductible gift in honor of Schmitz, send a contribution to the NFT Minnesota Liver Fund, 5350 Poplar Ave., Suite 430, Memphis, TN 38119. Please be sure to write "in honor of John Schmitz" on the memo line. Secure donations also can be made online at Donors should click on "Patients We Help" to locate Schmitz.