SYSK: The Rittgers - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

SYSK: The Rittgers

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by Danielle Wagner

WAVERLY (KWWL) The items went quickly during a live auction at The Centre in Waverly. Each bid helps long-time Waverly residents Darwin and Carolyn Rittgers.

"It's unbelievable people open their hearts and respond in the way they have. I'm very grateful for it," said Darwin Rittgers.

The Rittgers have been together 34 years, but soon they may be closer than ever.

"I said Darwin let me try to give you a kidney, and he said I don't want you to. I want you to just let me try. What have I got to lose?" said Carolyn Rittgers.

About two years ago, Darwin went to the doctor for a routine physical. That's when he learned his kidney function was deteriorating.

"Now my function around mid teens. Typically transplant is at 12 to 13 percent, so I'm really close," said Darwin Rittgers.

The goal is to get him another kidney before he needs dialysis. He's on the national donor registry, but the wait is often three to five years.

Six, separate people tried to donate their kidneys -- but they didn't match.

Finally, Carolyn pushed her way to get tested.

"I knew in my heart I had to do this because if I could give him my kidney, he'll be better," she said.

"I was the first one to tell her no. I didn't want to put her through that," said Darwin Rittgers.

Initial tests showed Carolyn to be a match, so then she went in for a full-day of further testing.

But that's when doctors found it.

"Ended up being a little more than eight pounds. It was huge tumor, part attached to her ovary. We had no idea. No idea," said Darwin Rittgers.

Carolyn said the tumor was larger than both her children at birth, but thankfully, it wasn't cancerous.

As odd as it sounds... Darwin sees his need for a kidney as a blessing in disguise.

"I feel blessed today no matter what happens to me, the fact that we discovered that, she is now going to be healthy is my reward for this whole thing," he said.

In the end, both may be healthy.

There's still some testing to be done, but as of now, it looks like Carolyn will be able to give her husband a kidney. Of course, once she heals from her own surgery.

"I'm telling you, the Lord was in this 100 percent," said Carolyn Rittgers.

Darwin's brother and sister organized a benefit for the couple.

"We just wanted to support them and assist them and it's another way of letting them know we're behind them," said Dell Rittgers.

The Rittgers said all the support is overwhelming and very appreciated.

Carolyn said kidney transplant surgery costs $105,000 per person. Insurance should cover most of her surgery, but they need money for Darwin's. If you'd like to donate to the Rittgers, a fund is set up at First National Bank in Waverly.

Reporter: Danielle Wagner

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