Local heads to Florida for kidney donation operation | SteamboatToday.com

Local heads to Florida for kidney donation operation

Teresa Ristow

Steamboat Springs resident Dave Berry is in Florida this week to be a living kidney donor to his brother, Scott Berry, pictured in the photograph behind him.

— Dave Berry didn't think twice when he was asked to take a blood test last fall to see whether he might be a match for donating a kidney to his brother, Scott Berry.

Scott Berry, who lives in Florida, has spent much of the past 20 years battling the effects of IgA Nephropathy, an autoimmune disease of the kidney.

When his symptoms grew worse about five months ago, it was clear Scott Berry would need a kidney transplant.

"Probably the last 10 years or so, he's had some issues," Dave Berry said. "But it went south real quick."

Going onto a national transplant list could have meant years of waiting before Scott received a transplant, and the family is hopeful a quicker transplant will allow Scott to avoid dialysis.

Dave Berry and his wife, Lisa, left Steamboat Springs on Saturday for Florida, where they will stay with family before and after the surgery, scheduled for Tuesday morning at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.

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"I ran out with my heart," Dave Berry said. "Obviously, the first thing on my mind was to save my brother's life."

Dave Berry is the youngest of four siblings, while Scott Berry is the eldest. The brothers grew up on Ohio and were considered the most similar siblings of the family.

Dave Berry moved to Steamboat in 1994 and has become a familiar face around town through his work as a former paraprofessional in the Steamboat Springs School District, as a landscaper and as manager of Slopeside Restaurant in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

He was also coach of Steamboat Springs High School's football team for a season in 2012-13.

Although he was quick to agree to the transplant, Dave Berry said Mayo Clinic staff members were thorough in their process of making sure it wasn't a decision he would regret.

Ultimately, Dave Berry said he thinks the selfless act will set a good example for his children, Belize, 11, and Jake, 15.

"It was a no brainer. It's what you do for your family," Lisa Berry said.

Though the family expected to receive national grants that support living donors, they found out last week, just days before the surgery, the funding had been denied.

The process of applying for the funds and worrying about lost wages following the surgery have been stressful, the couple said, but they find it difficult to ask for help.

Friends have encouraged the couple to turn to the community for support, and the Berrys have opened a transparent account at Wells Fargo called the David Berry Living Donor Fund.

Those interested in donating can receive information about specifically how the money will be used by the family, who is concerned about how everyday expenses and bills will be paid while Dave Berry is in recovery and while Lisa Berry takes off work for the surgery, as well as travel expenses to and from Florida.

Another contribution fund created by the HelpHOPELive nonprofit is collecting money for both brothers. Information on that fund can be found at helphopelive.org/campaign/10684.

The couple said they were already grateful to members of the community who have stepped up to help with child and animal care while they are away, as well as Euzoa Bible Church, which connected them with available resources from Lift-Up of Routt County.

"We have great friends and neighbors," Lisa Berry said.

Dave Berry said he hopes to be recovered and back in Steamboat by late May, depending on his recovery time.

He said the decision to donate his kidney has been emotional for his brother and himself.

"I think it will be impactful for the rest of both of our lives," Dave Berry said.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

How to help:

The Berry family is seeking help for expenses related to travel to Florida for Dave Berry’s kidney donation surgery, as well as everyday expenses that will be difficult following the surgery.

The family has set up an account at Wells Fargo called the David Berry Living Donor Fund.

Another fund will help both brothers, Dave and Scott Berry, with particular expenses related to the surgery. Learn more at helphopelive.org/campaign/10684