Matt Bruemmer considered himself an active, healthy person.
While attending Seymour High School, he participated in football, soccer and track and field.
He also spent time hunting, fishing and playing in softball leagues.
After graduating from high school in 2001, he landed a job at Cummins Inc. in Seymour.
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When he was 21, he felt a call to join the military, so he signed up to take a physical and do other testing at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Indianapolis.
One of those tests, however, changed his life forever.
“They did a urine test, and they flagged it in there,” the 35-year-old Seymour resident said. “Then they ended up sending me to a kidney doctor here in Seymour.”
A biopsy showed he had high protein in his urine. Within a few months, he was told he had IgA nephropathy, or Berger’s disease.
The kidney disease occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A lodges in a person’s kidneys, resulting in inflammation that over time may hamper the kidneys’ ability to filter wastes from blood.
IgA nephropathy usually progresses slowly over many years, but the course of the disease in each person is uncertain, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some people leak blood in their urine without developing problems, some eventually achieve complete remission and others develop end-stage kidney failure.
There is no cure, but certain medications can slow its course. Keeping blood pressure under control and reducing cholesterol levels also slow disease progression, according to the Mayo Clinic.
It was devastating news for Bruemmer, who had plans of being a sniper in the military.
“It was pretty depressing at first,” he said. “It shot down my dreams, and then eventually, I just began to live with it and got a regular job.”
The news also was tough for his mother, Donna Greathouse, to hear.
“He was really heartbroken because he didn’t get to do what he wanted to do,” she said. “It was very hard, emotional and heartbreaking to see him have to deal with this.”
Neither of them had heard of the disease, and Bruemmer said he had never felt bad up until that point in his life.
“I had a few broken bones growing up, but other than that, I had no other illnesses, really,” he said.
“He was fine,” Greathouse said. “If you’d look at it, he was healthy and played sports, was on the soccer team, football team, just really healthy.”
Since his diagnosis, Bruemmer has taken blood pressure medicine daily.
He was able to return to his job at Cummins, but when he started having some health issues a couple of years ago, that came to an end. He also has raised his 15-year-old son, Mikel, on his own.
In the past two years, he has undergone six surgeries, and he also has received kidney dialysis three days a week.
He now hopes to find a donor so he can receive a kidney transplant.
A little more than two years ago, Bruemmer was sent to an Indianapolis hospital for testing to be put on a donor list.
“They gave me a rough idea it was going to be like four and a half years for my blood type, but they said that’s not a guarantee,” he said.
He’s currently on the inactive list and needs $6,000 to be on the active list.
“I’m on Medicaid now, and I have a $1,000 deductible a month, so they want me to have $6,000 put in a health savings account. That way, I can afford the immunosuppressant medicine,” he said. “Right now, I’m on hold until I have some of the money raised.”
A benefit motorcycle ride is set for Saturday, starting and ending at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1925 in Seymour. Registration is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and then the ride will travel through Scottsburg, Salem and Medora before returning to the VFW.
The cost is $20 for one person or $25 for a couple. After 5 p.m., the cost will be $5 per person.
That night at the VFW, there will be food from Flying Pink Pig BBQ, live music by CRS, a 50/50 drawing, a silent auction and raffles. Among the items are a motorcycle lift, a Harley-Davidson afghan, a handgun and a tool set. The public is invited.
Bruemmer and his mother and stepfather decided to do a motorcycle ride as a fundraiser because of their longtime involvement in American Bikers Aimed Toward Education.
Bruemmer said more fundraisers may follow because he will have to take medicine the rest of his life.
He already is receiving a lot of support from people.
“It means dearly to me. I really appreciate everybody that’s done anything,” he said. “One of my best friends, he just had a ride for his dad and donated all of the donations to me. My other friend, his parents own the Flying Pink Pig BBQ, and they are going to be catering my benefit. That’s tremendous right there.”
Those who can’t be at Saturday’s event may make donations to Bruemmer at MainSource Bank in Seymour.
If someone wants to be tested to see if they are a match for a kidney donation for Bruemmer, Greathouse said his insurance will pay for all of the testing. She did that but unfortunately didn’t pass the kidney test and couldn’t be a donor.
Greathouse said she had no idea she had a kidney disease until doing the testing. She now takes blood pressure medicine.
“We had T-shirts made (for the benefit) to get this out there because a lot of people don’t know about this disease because we didn’t know anything about it,” she said. “I tried to give him my kidney. That didn’t work. We’re hoping that somebody will help us out.”
After his diagnosis, Bruemmer visited a kidney doctor in Seymour once every six months or once a year, depending on the results of his labs.
He said he was doing OK until a couple of years ago when his kidneys started to give out, and his doctor put him on steroids to help them run better. That, however, ended up damaging his hips.
The doctor also had him start going to kidney dialysis every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at DaVita Dialysis Center in North Vernon.
“That was a big shock,” Greathouse said. “We knew he was living with this, but when it came down to this, it was just something you never really think about. We didn’t think it was going to happen, but it does happen.”
To start dialysis, he had to have two surgeries to put fistulas in his left arm, and he had another surgery to put a catheter in from his heart over to the other side of his chest.
Each day of dialysis, Bruemmer is there for four hours. His blood pressure has to be at a normal level for him to be released to go home.
“Basically, they stick two needles in your arm,” he said. “One of them will actually suck the blood out. They’ll run it through a dialyzed filter through a machine, and it will take the toxins, like extra phosphorus and extra calcium and stuff like that, it will clean your blood out.
“Then it will also take the fluid out of your blood because I don’t use the bathroom anymore because my kidneys won’t work, so everything I drink just goes and builds up in my blood,” he said. “They have to take the fluid out of your blood, too, and then they pump it back in.”
He can’t drink any dark fluids or anything high in phosphorus, metal, potassium or calcium.
“Before, I drank whatever I wanted and as much quantity,” he said. “Now, I can only drink 32 ounces of liquid a day.”
After each dialysis, Bruemmer said he sometimes feels fine, and other times, it makes him very sick.
“Your blood pressure might drop out and give you cramps,” he said. “If they take too much fluid out of your blood, it will make your legs and feet cramp up real bad. It’s pretty painful when that happens. Then usually about an hour after I leave there, I get real tired and nauseated a little bit, so usually, I have to come home and take a nap for a little bit.”
Bruemmer went through a fourth surgery before undergoing two more surgeries about four months apart in 2016 to have each of his hips replaced.
“I woke up one day, and I couldn’t really bend one of my legs because it was just real sharp pains,” he said. “Then I eventually went to the doctor like a week later. I just figured it was a pulled muscle or something like that. They thought at first it was sciatic nerve. Then they ended up doing X-rays and stuff and saw it was avascular necrosis of the hip.”
Greathouse said one hip was so bad that it took six screws to put it back in and put it back together.
“It’s a lot better now,” Bruemmer said of his hips. “I still have pain in them, but nothing like before. I went a few months without getting out of bed because it hurt so bad to walk.”
At times, dealing with the disease is hard and makes him emotional, but Bruemmer said he battles through.
“I’m a single parent, so I’ve just got to wake up every day and do it,” he said.
Mikel plays football at Brownstown Central High School, but his dad isn’t able to go to games or get outside to run and throw the ball with him.
While that’s tough for Matt, he knows his son understands and is very supportive.
“He’s very understanding about it,” Matt said. “If I need anything, all I have to do is ask him.”
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What: Benefit motorcycle ride for Matt Bruemmer, a Seymour man who has a kidney disease known as IgA nephropathy or Berger’s disease and is in need of a kidney transplant
When: 1 p.m. Saturday; registration is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: Ride begins and ends at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1925, 311 S. Jackson Park Drive, Seymour
Cost: $20 for one person or $25 for a couple; after events start at the VFW, the cost will be $5 per person
Other activities: Food from Flying Pink Pig BBQ, live music by CRS, a 50/50 drawing, a silent auction and raffles
Who: The public is invited to the ride and the events that night at the VFW
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For information on testing for a kidney donation, call Indiana University Health University Hospital in Indianapolis at 800-382-4602 or Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, at 800-866-7539.