Carmel Valley transplant recipient chairs 2014 San Diego Kidney Walk, raises awareness about organ donation

Craig Ramseyer with his family. / Courtesy photo

By Kristina Houck

It was just five years ago when both of Craig Ramseyer’s kidneys failed. Because of a kidney donation from his longtime colleague and friend, the Carmel Valley resident was able to restore his health and recently chair the National Kidney Foundation’s 2014 San Diego Kidney Walk May 18 at NTC Liberty Park in San Diego.

“You can’t express enough gratitude for someone who is willing to do that,” said Ramseyer, who will be 58 years old in August. A father of three, his twins are now 11 and his oldest is 13. “You can’t express in words how important it is.”

Ramseyer suffers from polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder in which clusters of cysts develop within the kidneys. His kidneys functioned steadily until he turned 50.

“If I didn’t do it, he was going to die,” said Rancho Bernardo resident Katherine Knudsen, who donated her kidney to Ramseyer after learning she was a match in 2009. “His health was deteriorating. I could see it every day.”

For more than a decade, Ramseyer and Knudsen have both worked at San Diego law firm Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP, where Ramseyer is a partner and Knudsen serves as senior counsel. The pair first met in 1987 when Ramseyer was a partner at the first law firm Knudsen joined.

Prior to his surgery, Ramseyer’s kidneys were functioning at 8 percent. With dialysis on the horizon, his wife reached out to friends and family members, asking them to see whether they were a match.

“Several of us went in and got tested. It just so happened that I was a match,” Knudsen said.

After talking with her family, Knudsen, then 48, decided to donate her kidney to Ramseyer. They went into surgery June 17, 2009 at UC San Diego Health System’s Transplant Center.

“He’s like my big brother. I’ve known him forever,” she said. “To me, it was meant to be.”

Approximately 73 million American adults are at risk for kidney disease due to high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of the genetic disorder. Of the more than 120,000 people on the national organ transplant waitlist, more than 98,000 are waiting for a life-saving kidney.

Since the transplant surgery, both Ramseyer and Knudsen have served as board members of the National Kidney Foundation, an organization that aims to prevent kidney disease, improve the health and well being of individuals and families affected by the disease, and raise awareness about organ donation.

Ramseyer and Knudsen’s company participates in the San Diego Kidney Walk every year. Last year, Team Procopio had about 70 members and raised almost $15,000.

“There are so many people who need organs, especially kidneys. Most diseases affect kidneys,” Knudsen said. “Because so many people are in dire need of a kidney, we need to raise as much money as we can for the education and testing that’s done throughout the country so that we can combat this disease.”

For more information about the National Kidney Foundation, visit www.kidney.org.


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