Local man receives life-giving gift from wife this Christmas

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published December 19, 2014

 Tim Bersche, 56, of Farmington Hills, is all smiles with his wife, Jane, Dec. 18 in their Farmington Hills home. Jane donated her kidney to her husband in early December.

Tim Bersche, 56, of Farmington Hills, is all smiles with his wife, Jane, Dec. 18 in their Farmington Hills home. Jane donated her kidney to her husband in early December.

Photo by Deb Jacques

FARMINGTON HILLS — Tim Bersche, 56, of Farmington Hills, received an early Christmas present this year from his wife, Jane: the gift of life.

Jane, 58, donated her left kidney to him laparoscopically during his Dec. 3 advanced robotic surgery at Henry Ford Hospital.

“I think that this is a pretty incredible gift that I’ve been given, really,” Tim said in his home Dec. 18. “I’m very thankful to my wife to be willing to do that.”

Tim, who was born with one kidney, realized two years ago while at his job that he wasn’t feeling well. Doctors informed him that his kidney was functioning at 18 percent. When doctors wanted to admit him to the hospital, he decided to go the dialysis route for 11 months at Greenfield Health Systems in Novi.

If not for the surgery, he would have stayed on dialysis indefinitely.

Tim said he didn’t even know how sick he was until he looked back at pictures and saw that his skin was gray in color.

“My coloring is back,” he said. “For a long time, probably, I didn’t even realize it.”

Before the kidney transplant, his creatinine level — which doctors measure as a test of kidney function — was at 5.5, and is now 1.5; the normal range is 1.3-0.3.

Tim, who was the seventh robotic surgery patient at Henry Ford Hospital, said the advanced robotic surgery resulting in a two-inch incision under his stomach was better than a nine-inch gash with traditional surgery.

Laparoscopic donor nephrectomy, a minimally invasive surgery to remove a donor’s kidney for a kidney transplant, is conducted with a surgeon operating through robotic hands that make one or several small incisions in the abdomen using surgical instruments and a long, thin tube with a camera at the end. The kidney is then removed through the incisions.

“I’m now a big robotic fan,” Tim said. “If they got that technology, we should use it.”

Jane said she knew that her husband was compatible for the kidney transplant because she has type O blood, and Tim has type AB.

Tim, who had traditional surgery before, said he was not nervous or apprehensive about this surgery.

“I was pretty confident that God was watching over me, and I know that we had thousands of people praying for us all over the world,” he said.

Henry Ford Hospital Dr. Yoshida, Atsushi, who performed the surgery on Tim, said he wanted to perform the robotic surgery with minimal incisions.

“Whether it be a bladder removal or hysterectomies ... I try to do this in a minimally invasive fashion,” Atsushi said. “The main thing is to prove that it is going to be effective in the long-term.”

Tim, who goes back to work at a group home in Livonia in March, said he is “feeling good” now. He only has occasional muscle soreness where the stitches are.

“The biggest thing is getting adjusted to all the medication,” he said.

Jane said that before this surgery, she had never had any major operations.

“I was kind of excited, and (it was) a little bit surreal,” Jane, who went back to work Dec. 18, said.

Jane also said that for her, donating her left kidney was not a question.

“I told someone recently (that) Christmas is a time that we celebrate (that) God gave the world Jesus, and Jesus gave His life for us,” she said sitting next to her husband with Christmas decorations hung throughout their home — along with two green organ donation support ribbons posted on their fridge. “And to think that I get to give seems special to me — that I get to give, too.”

Tim then quoted John 15:13, saying, “‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ I now have a practical example of that verse.”

The couple’s son, Luke, 20, said he thinks it is “cool” that his mom was willing to donate her kidney to his father.

“It is also neat to see how many other people were willing to do it,” Luke said as he rattled off several others, including their pastor, who volunteered to donate their kidneys.

“It is definitely related to faith,” Luke said. “It was a no-brainer to them and other people. Just what you’re supposed to do. That is awesome.”