Deb Houchen McMahon calls it the “Miracle at Mayo.”
“My sister, Pamela Houchen Oster of Mankato, Minn., received a life-saving kidney transplant just in the nick of time at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.,” the former Decatur woman said.
“Her kidney function had deteriorated to 12 percent, she had a constant headache, her back felt like it was on fire and she threw up every morning.
"Yet, she remained the eternal optimist, never complaining, never questioning 'why me?' never moaning and groaning. To see her one would never guess she was suffering from end stage renal disease.”
The miracle happened, of course, because a donor stepped forward to provide a kidney. McMahon calls the donor “an angel.” She also wonders: “What do you say to someone who so selflessly made the decision to give my sister the gift of life? There is no way to repay her.
“My sister recuperated in the Gift of Life House in Rochester. With her positive attitude, her grateful heart and her treasured family and friends, she will continue to be a shining example of what a miracle looks like.”
McMahon's father, Vernon Houchen, a Decatur attorney, also suffered from kidney disease.
In 1992 when he was a kidney dialysis patient three times a week, McMahon and Oster wrote to hundreds of celebrities asking them to send get-well wishes. Many replied with autographed photos and letters.
In March 1997, Houchen retired from practicing law. McMahon wrote a Herald & Review Prairie Talk essay, “In Praise of Dear Old Dad.” He died July 25, 1997, at age 72.