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Austin man receives gift of life thanks to brotherly love

Alan and Bob Rowbal on a post-surgery fishing trip

AUSTIN, Minn. (FOX 47) - For the Rowbal brothers, polycystic kidney disease has been a part of their whole lives. Their mother was hit with the disease which results in cysts developing within your kidneys. It causes the kidneys to enlarge and lose function over time.

"It's a genetic disease," said Bob Rowbal. "If you have a parent that has it, you have a 50 percent chance as a child to have the disease."

Bob reluctantly got tested and found out he had inherited the disease. He had been monitoring his blood pressure and going for yearly checkups when he got shocking news.

"They basically said 'Bob, you need to have a kidney transplant.' It's a shocker. I knew I had the disease but I thought it was 10 years away," said Rowbal.

Bob needed a kidney transplant in a month or he would need to start dialysis.

"I remember driving back to Austin and my life was flashing before my eyes," he recalls. "I'm thinking I'm not going to see my daughters get married or grandkids. Just all that doom and gloom."

Luckily, he found a donor. His brother, Alan, was a match. However, Alan thought his brother was asking for a kidney in the distant future.

"I said, 'No bro, sooner than that.' He said, 'What? Like next month?' I said, 'Yes, next month.' and he said, 'What?!'. Real big burden on him," said Rowbal.

Alan gave his brother a second chance at life and they both had successful surgeries at Mayo Clinic.

"Then the sense of calmness came over me," said Rowbal, who credits his faith for helping him through the ordeal. "Just being thankful that you have God."

While there still is no cure for polycystic kidney disease, Bob reminds us that this is not a death sentence.

"I live a normal, happy life thanks to my brother for donating a kidney," Rowbal said. "He tells me no more Christmas presents. That's quite okay."

Bob was back at his job at Hormel a little over a month after the operation. He says his only regret is not getting tested earlier for the disease and urges others to do so.

Alex Tejada

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