Corrie Svehla

Co-workers Annette Wetzle (left) and Corrie Svehla at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln undergraduate commencement on May 4. The pair work on helping with large events at UNL, like graduation.

Corrie Svehla went to the doctor for a lingering virus — maybe swine flu — in 2009 and left with a totally different diagnosis.

The virus had set off a dormant gene in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln event coordinator's kidneys, and he was subsequently diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, or Berger's disease.

His kidneys were swelling, and failing.

"I had this dull, aching pain in my abs," Svehla said. "I just wasn't as vibrant as I normally was, either. I just wasn't feeling like myself."

For the past 23 years, Svehla has organized large events at UNL. He works behind the scenes to make sure things like graduation go off without a hitch, handling logistics such as the layout of Pinnacle Bank Arena and making sure lines of communication are open between his department and HuskerVision, which is in charge of streaming the ceremony.

He said with how active he is at his job, and with his hobbies of traveling and cheering on Husker teams with his partner, Daniel Frusciante, he wanted to get into the doctor that day 10 years ago to see what was going on.

Unlike some other human organs, kidneys do not regenerate. So when the functioning level of Svehla's kidneys went down, they did not come back.

He started going to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where they were doing research on the disease. His doctors changed his medication plan and were able to keep his kidneys functioning at 30%-35%.

It was not ideal, but it was livable. He started out making four trips to Rochester every year, then got down to two trips and eventually one annual trip for the past three years.

"It was life-changing, definitely," Svehla said. "The first few years I went up there, I just hoped for the best."

The positive run of keeping his kidneys at functioning levels came to a halt in 2018, though.

Doctors determined Svehla's blood was "getting dirty" because his kidneys were not cleaning his blood properly to remove toxins. His kidney functioning level dropped to 10%-15%.

This resulted in a spike in blood pressure and immediate dialysis to purify his blood as many as three times every week.

The deterioration of his kidneys also meant that Svehla would need a transplant.

He entered into the national organ transplant wait list, but his goal is to find a living donor to expedite the wait, which usually takes around five years.

"The best transplant is a living donor," Svehla said. "Whether it's a relative or just someone with a matching blood type. That is the ultimate goal."

This disease has impacted many aspects of Svehla's life — his hobbies, his work and the way he interacts with people. He said he is quieter now than in the past.

But he points to support from co-workers, friends and family as a large reason his medical issues haven't hindered who he is.

"I've been very lucky to have the support I have," Svehla said. "It has been a life-changing experience and one that has required a lot of planning in all areas of my life."

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