Best friends share vacations, memories, kidney


Best friends Joel Kelley and Aaron Kelberlau in their hospital bed two days after Kelberlau gave Kelley one of his kidneys. Photo provided by Joel Kelley
Aaron Kelberlau and Joel Kelley, both of Blair, have a lot in common — they go to the same church, have daughters close in age, and they even share the same blood type (B positive). They're best friends who share everything: vacations, family outings, and meals.

And there's one more thing they share: an organ.

Twenty years ago, Joel was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a genetic disorder in which cysts grow in the kidneys, often eventually causing kidney failure. It has no proven therapies that are effective in preventing its' progression, so it's difficult to treat, and difficult to live with.

In the fall of 2016, Joel was told that his kidneys were below 15 percent production rate, and that he would need a kidney transplant within six months or he'd have to go on dialysis.

"I wasn't eating much, I lost my appetite," Joel said. "I lost my circulation, I went to bed early, I was just tired all the time."

Joel was placed on a kidney transplant list. These lists generally take about 13 months for a recipient to acquire a donor — the list is long.

Luckily for Joel, there were other factors at work. Continue reading