Demi Ruder, sophomore social work major and captain of the volleyball team, is the perfect match to save her father’s life.
Her father, Michael Ruder, was diagnosed with kidney failure last May. “It was out of the blue. They called it an autoimmune disease, so no one knows why it happened or where it came from,” she said. “[The doctors] literally tried everything. Because my dad was so stubborn, he refused dialysis for the longest time, but it finally got to the point that it was dialysis or not make it.” Dialysis is an artificial method of eliminating waste and unwanted water from the blood—essentially replacing the function of a failed kidney. “He had to do it four times a day for a month. Watching that is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen,” she said. “I don’t know how people can go for years doing that.”
For Demi Ruder, the decision to give her father a kidney wasn’t difficult. “He didn’t want any of us to get tested to donate—just being a dad—but from the very beginning, anything I could do, I was going to do,” she said. “As soon as he was put on the list, I was the first to get tested—perfect match.”
Demi Ruder is extremely grateful for the opportunity to help her father. “Just thinking about not having my dad in my life is one of the scariest things I’ve ever thought about,” she said, “so the chance to do something to keep him in my life is amazing. It means the world to me.”
This experience has really made her aware of the importance of becoming a donor. “I think that if anyone has the opportunity to help someone like this—then you should get tested to be on the donor list,” she said. “You can give someone a second chance at life—if you’re willing to do that it’s definitely worth it.”
Before Michael Ruder was placed on dialysis the doctors attempted other treatments such as plasmapheresis and chemotherapy. Plasmapheresis is an extracorporeal therapy in which the blood plasma is removed from the body, treated and returned to the body during a constant circulation.
The attempted chemotherapy treatments led to other complications for Michael Ruder. “The worst part about this whole thing was that [the doctors] put him on chemo for three months. And while he was on chemo, his immune system was so suppressed that he got shingles in his eye. He lost his eyesight in his right eye,” she said. “He’s been through so much.”
As this will be her first surgery, Demi Ruder is nervous, but her doctors have reassured her about the low risk, so she is excited to help her father. The doctors have informed her that her surgery and recovery will go quickly, but her father’s recovery will take longer.
Looking ahead to the next volleyball season, which resumes in late August, Demi Ruder predicts this will not affect her athletic abilities. “Since I don’t play a contact sport, [the doctors] aren’t worried, which was definitely reassuring,” she said. “I just hope I can get back to it soon. It’s going to be weird not playing for a while.” Demi Ruder has been participating in organized volleyball teams since she was 12-years old.
The surgery is scheduled to take place on Feb. 13 at the University of Colorado hospital. “It’s been a scary journey, but I’m glad there’s hope in sight,” said Demi Ruder.