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Yard sale to help transplant recipient

John Schmitz never takes one day for granted. He received a lifesaving liver transplant in October, but the costs are overwhelming. Volunteers are holding a yard sale to help with his expenses.

Schmitz, 37, 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 illness led to many other health problems, including a diagnosis of colitis two years later. In May, he was diagnosed with cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis, which causes inflammation and scarring of the liver's bile ducts. Doctors said a liver transplant was essential to his survival, and he received the transplant Oct. 1, 2010.

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 loving husband and father of two young children, is thrilled to be on the road to recovery. His illness left him with very little energy to spend time with his family. He works for a construction business, but his health problems have limited his ability to work, adding to the financial strain.

The Schmitz family also incurred travel expenses related to the transplant, as the surgery took 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.

"Of course, we're thrilled that John received his transplant," said Claire Prince, NFT fundraising consultant, "but he still faces financial obstacles. Many people don't realize the lifelong expenses transplant recipients incur. At NFT, we're dedicated to helping John and his volunteers raise funds so he can fully embrace his new life and focus on resuming a normal lifestyle with his young family."

Volunteers are planning a yard sale Saturday, May 14 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Bertha Community Center, 127 2nd Ave. NW. The sale will include a variety of household items, clothing, books, toys and more.

For more information, please contact Bobbie Bertram at (218) 924-4501.

To make a tax-deductible gift in honor of Schmitz, please send a contribution to the NFT Minnesota Transplant 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.