When Chris Strouth found out he had kidney disease, he named his sickness Harold.
It was a way to deal with something that might kill him, and the name was a lot easier to remember than IGA Nephropathy.
Strouth has coped with Harold for about three years, but by last winter, his life was such a living hell that he decided it was time to take Harold for a visit to the Mayo Clinic. The news was not good. Harold had overstayed his welcome.
Strouth opened up his Twitter account.
"'Shit, I need a kidney,' or words to that effect, is what I wrote," Strouth said the other day. "I got replies instantly."
Nineteen people contacted him with offers to get tested to see if their kidneys would make a suitable donation. One of them was Scott Pakudaitis.
When he saw Strouth's tweet, "I thought it was a joke," Pakudaitis says.
But then he read a longer, eloquent, and emotional plea on Strouth's Facebook page. After talking with a friend who had donated a kidney 15 years ago, and doing some homework of his own with the medical literature, Pakudaitis figured he'd be no worse for the wear and decided to see if he could be a match for Strouth.
The tests came back positive. And when Pakudaitis contacted Strouth, they discovered they had another link. Pakudaitis is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and it turns out that his little brother's mother had worked with Strouth at the American Composers Forum.
Strouth has been a fixture on the Twin Cities' music and arts scene for years. He was director of artists and product for Twin/Tone records; he's played in a range of rock, jazz, and experimental bands around town and on stages including First Avenue, the Walker, and the Weismann. He had just wrapped production on a documentary about the Republican National Convention in St. Paul when Harold turned up the volume.
The two men have known each other for a long time, first crossing paths when Strouth was with Twin/Tone and Pakudaitis was managing the band All the Pretty Horses. But that was years ago. Pakudaitis is now a statistician at St. Catherine University and a clothing designer and photographer. They haven't seen each other in person in a while, and Pakudaitis said there was a good chance they wouldn't until the doctors prepped the OR.
On December 1, the two men laid next to one another at the University of Minnesota Medical Center as surgeons took out Strouth's diseased kidney and replaced it with one of the good ones belonging to Pakudaitis.
Harold was shown the door.
Strouth is recovering nicely from the kidney transplant this week, thanks to the generosity of Pakudaitis and the bullhorn that is Twitter.
"I've got a big cut on my right side, shaped like a hockey stick. I can't really see it, but I think it's about nine inches long," Strouth said from his hospital bed at the University of Minnesota. Tottering around the hallways with an oxygen bottle to gain some strength, he jokes, "I'm in a hospital gown. I have a walker. I have a catheter bag. And I'm dressed in my Adam and the Ants T-shirt. It's pretty funny."
Fittingly, the two patients kept up a steady stream of tweets before and after the operation.
Pakudaitis: "At the hospital. Goodbye kidney hellooo pantslessness!"
Strouth: "In the waiting room at the hospital, I feel like I am in 7th grade just before swimming class."
Pakudaitis: "Hey @chrisstrouth how's my kidney doing? I hope your recovery is going as well as mine."