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SPECIAL REPORT: Hastings family endures a fatal diagnosis

(KSNB)
Published: Oct. 19, 2016 at 8:03 PM CDT
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Hastings resident Gary Golter isn't the first and certainly won't be the last person to be told his kidney is failing him, but it's the journey he and his wife Connie have taken since getting put on dialysis that is truly remarkable.

In Part One of a two-part special report, the Golter's open up their home and their hearts to tell us their story.

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"We couldn't get any lower, and we felt so alone, and (had) no more options," said Gary's wife, Connie Hansen Golter.

Gary had just learned his kidney was failing, and at the age of 69, his options were slim. After visiting the only working nephrologist in Hastings at the time. the Golters were informed that Gary didn't even qualify for a kidney transplant.

"My first doc never even mentioned it," Gary said.

"At one point we had even been told by a physician that Gary couldn't be an option when we inquired about it because he was a diabetic," Connie added.

The Golter's, all but defeated, began discussing the issue at home with friends and family, and one friend suggested the couple look into the Nebraska Med Center in Omaha.

In weeks, the Golter's discovered their first diagnosis was wrong. Nebraska Med said Gary was a fantastic candidate for a kidney donor.

"It was like walking out of dark age medicine, into the light - into modern medicine," Connie exclaimed.

However, the road for Gary and Connie wasn't cleared off just yet.

"Then you run into age issues," Gary said. "The older you get, the less chance you have of getting a good kidney."

Doctors placed Gary on a waiting list, with no end in sight. Weeks passed with no donor coming forward.

Concern heightened, eventually leading the family to reach out to as many relatives as they could to see if anyone could be a match.

"We truly were probably at our lowest point because he had been accepted for a transplant, and we couldn't get or find a kidney," Connie said.

After more week's passed, Gary's stepdaughter Anne Hansen Halbert posted to Facebook, asking for prayers.

And it was then that Gary's life and the life of another Hastings resident would change forever.

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In part two of our special report, we continue the story of Hastings resident Gary Golter, a 69-year-old man with little hope of finding a kidney donor given his age and medical condition.

But the, it was a Facebook post that changed his life, and soon to be the life of a man he had never met - Mark Weinman.

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"I couldn't believe it," Gary said. "I simply just couldn't believe it, but Mark just jumped on the ball right away and ended up going 150% ever since then, and we're just so thankful."

Mark Weinman - a Hastings resident was just scanning through Facebook one night when he saw Gary Golter - a man he didn't know personally who had a failing kidney.

"I read it, and the next thing out of my mouth was how do I get ahold of them and what do I need to do," Mark said.

Mark had been one of six who actually replied to the post saying they'd be willing to donate their kidney, but the field dwindled down to one in a hurry.

When it was revealed that Mark was the only viable candidate after a series of tests, the father of three knew this was something he needed to do - much to the jubilation of Gary and his wife Connie.

"I couldn't hug him and kiss him enough, and he and his family are now certified members of our family," Connie said with a smile.

Once the Nebraska Med Center cleared Mark as a compatible donor, Mark then informed his family. While some would expect a hesitant reaction, Mark received nothing but support.

"Happy, because I know my dad is saving someone else's life," said Aimee Weinman, Mark's daughter.

"When I was told, I was happy he was doing it to save somebody's life," added Mark's daughter Autumn.

The operation is now set for Wednesday, November 2 in Omaha, and Mark says he's still not getting cold feet.

"To me, I look at it as it's not going to bother me at all," Mark said. "I can still live and have a healthy life and enjoy what I am doing. They just said I can't play football. No contact sports, so I can't be a boxer when I'm done with this."

While there's plenty of anxiousness for both the Golters and Mark, they both have said they are expecting this to be a special moment in their lives that they'll never forget.

"It's saving somebody's life, because he's a father, a grandfather, a husband, a dad, and this just extends his life, for his family," Mark added.

"Well, you really look forward to the rest of your life - that there is going to be one," Gary laughed. "That Connie and I will be able to spend a lot years together."

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After the filming of this piece, Mark told us that he has now discovered a relative in his own family needs a kidney donor, but he will be staying with the Golters through this procedure.

He says he hopes his commitment to Gary will bring goodwill onto his family.