Friendships may come in all shapes and sizes.
For a Brainerd man and his best friend, their friendship could only be described as kidney-shaped.
Jason Beto, Brainerd, was given a kidney -- and another chance at life -- by his best friend, Darryl Kula, Brainerd.
Beto, 31, received Kula's left kidney during an operation Feb. 11 at the University of Minnesota Fairview Medical Center in Minneapolis.
Beto and Kula have been friends since they were teen-agers, living only a block apart in Brainerd. The teens would fish and camp together and spend time hanging out with friends.
Beto was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 3. By age 28, the diabetes began to take its toll on his body. When he checked into receiving a pancreas transplant, which is considered to be a cure for diabetes, he discovered his kidneys were failing. Beto's doctors told him he had five years to live before he would need a kidney transplant.
In December 2001, Beto broke his leg. Specialists told him it was because of a lack of bone density related to his kidney failure, which had progressed to the point where Beto needed to undergo dialysis treatments. So for the past year and until his surgery Feb. 11, Beto underwent dialysis treatments three days a week at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd.
Kula knew he and Beto were the same blood type and Kula spoke often of finding out if he could become a kidney donor, said Beto. He underwent testing to find out and learned he was a match.
"We lucked out," said Beto. "Or I lucked out, anyway."
Jason Beto, Brainerd, talked Saturday at his home about receiving a kidney from his best friend, Darryl Kula, Brainerd. Beto's kidneys failed as a result of his lifetime battle with diabetes. (Dispatch Photo by Clint Wood)
Beto said he tried a few times to talk his friend out of becoming a donor. After all, he would have to take time off work as a roofing contractor to heal, not to mention the complications that can arise from having only one kidney.
"I've always been a caretaker for people whom I consider family," said Beto. "I consider him like a brother and it was hard for me to accept that he would give up a part of his body like that. He made it very clear it was something he was adamant about doing. I cherish that. It's a real precious gift that he's given me."
Kula, who declined to be interviewed for this story, and Beto went to the Twin Cities Feb. 9 for the surgery, both surrounded by family and friends, including Kula's wife, Kim. Beto said his friend never admitted to being scared, but Beto himself was nervous that something would happen to Kula during surgery.
"If anything would have happened to him, it would have bothered me a lot," said Beto. "I still carry that with me. What if something happens to the one kidney he's got?"
The operation took a few hours. Kula's kidney began to work immediately after it was transplanted into Beto.
Beto is still hoping to undergo a pancreas transplant, but that surgery will have to be placed on hold until he fully recovers from the kidney transplant. Beto has had complications as a result of the transplant, but Kula has been recovering a lot more quickly, said Beto. Kula has about two to four more weeks of estimated recovery time while Beto still has about three to four months to heal.
Kula comes over often to Beto's apartment to make sure he's doing OK. Their roles have reversed.
"It's kind of nice, but kind of strange for him to be taking care of me when for many years I've taken care of my friends and family," said Beto.
"It's a pretty big step to take," said Beto. "I can't put into words how much I do love him and I don't know how I can repay him. He's told me that there's nothing to repay.
"It shows how important friendship can be."
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