Fighting to live

Dale Zuck of Stanford awaits liver transplant at Mayo Clinic
Thursday, January 27, 2022
Fighting to live

Dale and Lela Zuck met in Stanford 20 years ago. Photo courtesy of Lela Zuck

Fighting to live
Fighting to live
Fighting to live
Fighting to live
Fighting to live

Dale Zuck holds a strong presence at 6 foot 4 inches. He has been called a gentle giant. He was athletic in high school and participated in track and football. He later went onto marry Lela Zuck and together they adopted Wesley (center, left photo). While his strength is recognizable, he also has a soft spot for animals and babies. Photos courtesy of Lela Zuck

Dale Zuck of Stanford, 60, fought cancer two years ago. He is now fighting for his life due to severe liver failure.

“If he does not get a new liver, Dale will die,” said Lela Zuck. “But he has a good attitude, and his spirits remain high.”

Dale worked as Public Works Director for Stanford for nearly a quarter century. As another job, he drove school bus. Dale also volunteered for around 30 years for the fire department and ambulance, helping many for decades. He was forced to quit working due to health issues.

Since January 3, 2022, Dale has been undergoing treatment at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Ariz. The severity of his liver failure places him at the top of the transplant list.

According to the Mayo Clinic's website, hepatic/liver failure can be caused by a number of factors including cancer, reactions to medications, viruses, etc. The cause of Dale’s liver failure is unknown, but what is known is that it is no longer functioning.

As someone who has helped so many others, it is now he who needs help from others. For this purpose a benefit account has been set up at Stockman Bank to help the family with ongoing medical expenses.

Every five days, Dale undergoes a procedure called paracentis. Here a slender needle is inserted to remove excess fluid from the abdomen. His condition is ascites, or fluid buildup in the abdomen, which can accompany liver failure.

Dale is close to the hospital not only for this procedure but also so the transplant can take place immediately after becoming available. He also has a constant caregiver.

“The Mayo Clinic is a well-oiled machine,” said Lela. “In how they practice, they are flawless.”

Arnie Smith, Dale’s best friend, has only spoken to Dale briefly since he arrived at Mayo Clinic, but recognizes the transportation and other expenses to keep Dale close to the hospital add up.

“Staying down there is pretty costly. Any monetary assistance would be a great help to him,” said Arnie. “He’s always been there for me when I needed him. He is willing to do just about anything for anybody.”

Like Arnie, others have mentioned how willing Dale is to help others.

“Dale has touched a lot of people’s lives through his willingness to help,” said Kent Ridgeway. “If you needed help with moving anything – a piano, a pool table, a refrigerator – it didn’t matter what it was, Dale was there. He’s helped me out a lot too.”

Brent Miller, Stanford’s mayor, continues to appreciate Dale’s aid.

“He’s been a real help to me on the water system,” “He doesn’t owe me anything, and he’s been a world of help,” said Brent.

Many of Dale’s health problems began after a vacation a decade ago in 2011. When Dale and Lela returned from that vacation, Dale was diagnosed with a rare disease called sarcoidosis, Lela said.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, sarcoidosis is characterized by the growth of inflammatory cells. Its cause is unknown, but possibly the result of an immune response to an unknown substance. It can also cause organ damage.

“It affected him,” said Lela. “It was the beginning of his health problems.”

Dale and Lela met 20 years ago. Lela had moved to Stanford as a single mother with a five-year-old son in search of a simpler, quieter way of life, and she is thankful she found it, and Dale.

The couple first met one day when Lela was driving slowly around Stanford in search of cellphone service. Dale stopped her and asked, “Are you ok?”

Lela appreciated the gesture but didn’t think more of it at that juncture in time. Their first date was not until a year later.

“He was very persistent,” she said, with a laugh.

The couple adopted a son with special needs, Wesley, when he was eight years old. Wesley lives with the couple and has been taking care of the family’s dogs, Dandy and Dixie, and cats, Miss Kitty and Sushi.

Kent Ridgeway and Arnie Smith are taking care of the house, while Mayo Clinic takes care of Dale.

The next step in preparing him for the transplant is a bone marrow test to determine which alternate immunosuppressive/antirejection medications may be available.

The radiation Dale underwent to treat his cancer two years ago presents complications to his organ transplant. Doctors are currently researching what medications will be effective in preventing his body from rejecting the new liver.

Once the bone marrow tests provide a route for alternative antirejection medication, Dale has a common blood type, which should make the donor match easier, and he will be right by the hospital so that the necessary life-saving procedure can take place as soon as possible.

[Dale] is willing to do just about anything for anybody.” – Arnie Smith, best friend

How to help

Monetary donations can be made directly to the Dale Zuck benefit fund at any Stockman Bank across the state.