News from the Tennessee Valley News

Ronnie Thomas

Tim Guster Sr., bottom left, with his children, Tamera and Donald Guster II.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Tim Guster Sr., bottom left, with his children, Tamera and Donald Guster II.

Single dad still needs kidney
Decatur man comes close after organ match with friend; complications prevent transplant

Tim Guster Sr. had two near misses Friday. One was good. His house didn't catch fire. The other was bad. He didn't get his kidney transplant.

He and his
children, Tamera, 11, and Donald Guster II, 8, chatted with visitors in the front yard of their Canterbury Avenue Southwest home when the smoke alarm sounded.

Guster ran into his kitchen where a pot of chicken and noodles had boiled onto the hot stove eye.

The perils of a single dad.

Guster, who'll be 53 on July 1, says there is no challenge more daunting than being a good father. But, he does have a big concern. He has been on a kidney transplant list since September 1999. He goes to dialysis three days a week for treatments lasting more than four hours.

After the near kitchen fire, he got a call to contact a doctor at University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital.

As a backdrop to the call, Guster volunteers at Decatur Health and Rehabilitation, often taking Tamera and Donald with him. He became friends with Dawn Abbott, the facility's activities director, and her husband, Jon, a meat cutter.

On Friday, just after midnight, Jon Abbott, an epileptic, died on his 40th birthday. He had a seizure or a stroke and fell at work, hitting the back of his head and damaging his brain stem.

Guster knew of his friend's death, but he didn't know he was a donor or that his wife had requested that Guster get one of his kidneys.

"I told an organ coordinator that I had a dear friend that desperately needed a kidney, and I gave her Tim's name," Dawn Abbott said. "She said if Jon was a match, she'd make every effort for Tim to get his kidney. I prayed that he was a match."

The doctor confirmed the match, but told Guster there were complications.

"They did a CAT scan on my kidneys about two weeks ago, showing a cyst on the right side," Guster said. "The doctor also told me I had an enlarged spleen and signs of cirrhosis of the liver. He said I wouldn't have time to get everything checked and corrected to accept the kidney. In all these years, this is the closest I have come."

As he prays and waits, Guster makes sure his children get most of his attention. He was one of 13 children, and his mother died when he was 9. He saw how his older sisters took charge. He also learned from his father.

"Dad didn't remarry, and he worked three jobs to keep us going," Guster said. "After serving in the Marines, I eventually followed in his footsteps as a long-distance driver."

On what would be his last haul, Guster said he felt sick when he left Decatur to take a load to Myrtle Beach, S.C.

"I had high blood pressure. I wasn't taking my medication as I should," he said. "I made it back home somehow. My doctor sent me straight to the hospital for emergency surgery."

Guster said an older daughter moved in to assist him with his children until he got back on his feet.

"They're my rock around here," Guster said. "They know when I'm feeling bad and do all they can to help. Thank God for the microwave."

But Donald, a third-grader at Woodmeade Elementary, says no one fries chicken better than his dad.

"He's a great father," said Tamera, a sixth-grader at Cedar Ridge Middle School. "If I want something, he'll get it for me. Most of the time."

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Ronnie Thomas Ronnie Thomas
DAILY Staff Writer

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