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 match. One of them was Scott Pakudaitis. On Dec. 1, the two men will be laying next to one another at the University of Minnesota Medical Center as surgeons whip out Strouth's diseased kidney, replace it with one of the good ones belonging to Pakudaitis, and show Harold the door.
When he saw Strouth's tweet,"I thought is was a joke. That he wasn't serious," 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, he figured he'd be no worse for the wear and tear 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 in 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. "Back when Venus DeMars was a guy," Strouth says. 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 says there's a good chance they won't until the doctors prep the OR. Penciled-in plans for a Thanksgiving weekend meeting may get scrubbed because of cramped schedules.
When the operation's over, both men say they expect to return to regular lives. Strouth will rid himself of the dialysis machine that has ruled his existence since February. Pakudaitis will be a few ounces lighter. And Harold will be nowhere in sight.