‘Making the ultimate gift’: Loved ones launch online campaign to find kidney donor for agriculture advocate Marilyn Herzog

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Marilyn Herzog just doesn’t stop.

Born in Santa Rosa 75 years ago, Herzog grew up on a Bennett Valley ranch and became the California Dairy Princess, then a rock-star of a champion of Sonoma County agriculture. Throughout, she’s been on the go, always serving and inspiring others.

A force on the Sonoma County Fair board and a charitable angel to 4-H and National FFA Organization kids and the American Cancer Society, the Petaluman says her goal is to fulfill a command she heard repeated long ago in a speech by late U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz:

“Do everything you can, for every person you can, in every way that you can, every day that you can.”

Said Herzog, “I truly have tried to live my life that way.”

She’s done well, say her friends and colleagues and the organizations that have thanked her and her husband, Kip, with a barrage of honors. “Her commitment to youth in agriculture is second to none,” said Teejay Lowe, a fellow fair board member who was a partner in his family’s former G&G Supermarkets.

As a born giver, Herzog finds herself at present in an unfamiliar and somewhat uncomfortable position.

“It’s a bit strange to be asking other people for help,” she said.

But she really could use one healthy, functional kidney.

Nearly three years ago, Herzog went to her doctor thinking she’d annoyed her back by sitting too long in a torturous chair at a seminar. If only that was the source of her discomfort.

Tests revealed that her kidneys had nearly shut down. “I had only 3 percent of kidney function left,” she said.

She’d been aware prior to the diagnosis that her kidneys were impaired, but their almost total failure was a shock.

“None of my family had any kidney problems,” she said. Her best guess is that her hypertension played a role.

Since the revelation of renal failure, Herzog’s life has relied on dialysis to do the work her kidneys had done filtering her blood of waste products and excess water.

Herzog is tolerating the arduous process of home dialysis, but she can foresee the day it will become too much for her and her husband, who’s 82.

“Kip is getting older, and he’s a huge part of the team,” she said. When the mother of three and grandmother of five looks ahead, she imagines herself far more energetic and productive if she had a donated kidney and was freed of dialysis.

“If I could get a new kidney, I could do a lot more things for the benefit of the community,” she said.

Herzog hopes for a voluntary donation of a healthy kidney by someone who has two of them. She said her husband and children have found they are not qualified as donors, so Herzog needs a donor from outside her family.

Such gifts from friends, coworkers and caring strangers have become increasingly popular. The internet is home to many stories about people who donated a kidney and don’t miss it.

In Sonoma County a year ago, Taunya Moore, 50, of Cotati, honored a pledge to herself by donating one of her kidneys to dialysis patient Richard Lazovick, 55, of Santa Rosa.

Moore said that if it were possible for her donate another kidney, “I’d totally do it tomorrow.”

She said a year after the transplant surgery at a UCSF hospital, she experiences no effects on her health and has “absolutely no regrets at all.” She stayed in the hospital for three days after a kidney was removed from her body and placed in Lazovich’s.

“There are days and days that go by and I forget I donated a kidney,” Moore said.

The only thing that’s changed in her life, she said, is that she’s not supposed to take the pain reliever ibuprofen because of the risk it might damage her one kidney.

The process of becoming a kidney donor begins with resolving to do it, then being tested to determine if you are healthy enough and if you are a match for the intended recipient of your kidney. In the event the prospective donor and recipient are not a good match, it’s possible to create a chain among several donors and recipients.

Four, six, eight or more donors and recipients in a chain can be paired, and all of the transplant performed within quick succession.

To help Marilyn Herzog connect with a kidney donor, relatives and friends have created a Facebook page: Miracle 4 Marilyn.

“We believe in the power of kindness and selfless gifts,” the Facebook plea reads. “If you, or anyone you know, has an interest in considering making the ultimate gift by being a Living Donor for Marilyn, please reach out.”

Anyone interested can send an email to miracle4marilyn@gmail.com.

Whatever happens, Herzog said her life has been go, go, go and she will keep on as long as she can.

“I’ve just made up my mind,” she said, “that I’m going to live every day with as much boom as I can give it.”

You can reach Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 or chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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