You can’t keep a good man down

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Retired Minnesota Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Gary Kuebler of Sleepy Eye needs a kidney. Both of his kidneys were removed a few months ago after suffering an injury while serving in Iraq. Kuebler served. With O positive blood, he’s praying every morning when he gets up and every night when he goes to bed that he can find a suitable kidney donor. He’s on top of a national list for a kidney transplant.

SLEEPY EYE — Operation Iraqi Freedom war veteran Gary Kuebler doesn’t let the loss of both of his kidneys get the best of him.

Not even dialysis three days a week can stop him from working, maintaining his physical fitness and doing other things he enjoys like visiting his family and riding his motorcycle.

Kuebler is looking for a healthy kidney transplant donor over age 21 and under age 65 with O positive blood and antibodies.

Anyone who may know of a match can or would like to donate can contact MSG (Master Sergeant) Jeffrey R. Vogel, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System Transplant Center, 412-360-1640. Email

Nearly five years ago, Kuebler began noticing his health wasn’t the way it should be. He underwent many medical tests and learned he was dehydrated and needed dialysis.

Submitted photo Gary Kuebler served as a military security specialist in Iraq in 2007. An avid distance runner, he ran daily in temperatures up to 140 degrees F.

About a decade ago, Kuebler was doing military security work in Iraq for the St. James-based 1-125th Field Artillery when he found himself under heavy fire at times. His unit worked checkpoint security, which can be a very dangerous job in itself.

Kuebler said he didn’t feel well during his final months in Iraq but he didn’t want to leave early for medical reasons. He felt it was important to stay with his unit.

There were plenty of reasons for him to leave the desert. Camel spiders, up to the size of a frisbee, can run at speeds of more than 30 mph, screaming while they run. Their venom numbs its prey. They can jump three feet high and they eat or gnaw on people who are unaware until they wake up.

Kuebler said he was bitten by a camel spider and the bite became infected, causing him to take antibiotics.

“We were grunts in the war. We got hit with many mortars and rockets,” Kuebler said. “I later learned I had cancer spots on my kidneys, likely chemicals over there that got into my immune system and wound up in my kidneys.”

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Kuebler has displays some of the many tattoos on his arms.

Kuebler said at the time he was diagnosed, he was one of only a handful or two of U.S. military war veterans whose kidneys were cancerous due to wartime service.

He said he feels tired after his four hours of dialysis in New Ulm. Another side effect is losing feeling in both of his feet, which complicates his distance running, one of his favorite pastimes.

Kuebler keeps in shape working out on a Bowflex regularly.

He has to watch his diet very closely. His renal diet calls for high protein food like chicken, fish and steak. He takes nine pills each time he eats.

Not long ago, Gary had high hopes his brother Greg could donate his kidney to him, since they matched blood types. Until their blood was tested together and it separated due to antibodies in Gary’s blood.

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Kuebler keeps many keepsakes of his military service .

A vein transplant in Gary’s arm, done to create a good vein for dialysis, caused antibodies to grow in his blood. The vein didn’t work out so he had a port put in his chest.

In late March, he got a call from the Pittsburgh Veterans Medical Center that a perfect match was found. A 24-year-old donor was on life support but both of his kidneys went to two people ahead of him on the national transplant list.

Now, Kuebler is on top of the list of thousands of people waiting for kidney transplants.

Meanwhile, he keeps busy and fit working out and working at Sleepy Eye Auto Salvage, removing parts from vehicles.

“I was told I would be paralyzed by losing my kidneys,” Kuebler said. “I don’t want to be confined to a wheelchair.”