Brothers celebrate 40-year kidney transplant anniversary

Published: Jul. 4, 2022 at 9:02 AM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – A success story very few people live to tell: a 65-year-old Rochester man has been thriving the last 4 decades, thanks to his brother’s “spare parts.”

A successful kidney transplant made it all possible, but the road to get here was everything but easy.

Today, Peter Suby is a happy, healthy family man.

“Everyday I say thank you; that’s all I can do.”

Pete Suby, received kidney transplant

But 40 years ago, his life remained a question mark.

“I went for a physical in 1969 and they found blood in my urine,” Pete Suby said, “I had a kidney biopsy in 7th or 8th grade.”

The news from Mayo Clinic doctors as a teenager was a shock.

“You’re probably looking at a kidney transplant when you’re 40, 45, 50 years old,” Pete said.

So, Pete continued on with life, spending time with his younger brothers, Mike and Tim. He went on to finish grade school at Mayo High School, and later graduated college. Then at age 24, doctors said his kidneys had shut down.

“My first reaction was ‘Okay we do a transplant, either Mike or I.’ It was no thought whatsoever.”

Tim Suby, Pete's brother, donated kidney

Pete added, “They started, excuse me, screening my parents and my brothers for possible donors, and my youngest brother Tim turned out to be the ideal match.”

Tim Suby, a 19-year-old freshman in college at the time immediately signed up to save his brother.

On April 22, 1982, Pete received his brother’s kidney.

Pete and Tim Suby in 1982
Pete and Tim Suby in 1982(Kerstin Suby)

Dr. Sylvester Sterioff worked at Mayo Clinic for 35 years, mostly as a transplant surgeon. Pete was one of his patients.

“We had this opportunity to restore him to excellent health,” Dr. Sterioff said.

“My first words was ‘Did it work?’” said Tim.

It did indeed. A once gutted Pete, now a health man. However, the recovery for Tim was an uphill battle.

Tim added, “I was in for a week. I’ve got at least an 18-inch scar and they took a rib.”

Four decades later, Pete is considered a walking miracle.

“Dr. Sterioff told us 20 years from a living donor, a relative, is a good target. 40 years, we’re in rare air,” Tim said.

“We don’t have many of these long, long term successes.”

Dr. Sylvester Sterioff, Pete's transplant surgeon, Mayo Clinic

By God’s grace, Pete was given a second chance at life.

Pete added, “I would not have my three sons, my four great step kids, or our 15 grandkids if I wasn’t here.”

A second chance is something Pete says everyone deserves, no matter what life brings.

Suby Family Photo
Suby Family Photo(Kerstin Suby)

“If this gets one person to donate for somebody else, then this is all worth it,” said Pete.

“The recovery is quick, the safety is excellent, and they can restore life to somebody who’s from their family, who’s a friend, or even anonymously,” Dr. Sterioff said.

Choosing to become an organ donor is a decision that takes only a few seconds to make, but one that can help continue someone else’s life and legacy, just like the Suby’s.

Tim added, “If there’s a chance that you can stop somebody’s from saying ‘I’m done,’ go for it.”

Pete says he’s looking ahead to retirement in the next few years. After that, he wants to fulfill one of his long-term life goals of riding his bicycle around Lake Superior.

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