Thrive by IU Health

June 21, 2021

Boston Resident Welcomed by IU Health Transplant Team

Boston Resident Welcomed by IU Health Transplant Team

It was 2015 when a Medevac transported Benjamin “Ben” Ruback from his home state of Massachusetts 900 miles away to Indiana. He was in a bleak situation with a small bowel tear. He had been treated back home until doctors ran out of options. One of those surgeons knew of the IU Health Transplant Program and referred Ruback for a consultation.

“It was a long shot but it saved my life,” said Ruback, 35. In Indianapolis, Dr. Richard Mangus performed reconstructive surgery. Since then, recurrent abdominal issues – specifically infections - have brought Ruback on return visits to IU Health.

He recently returned in May for a 10-day hospital stay, returned home for a few weeks and then came back to IU Health with what he calls “a chronic abscess.”

Ruback’s health issues started at the age of five when he was diagnosed with Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). The disease causes scar tissue to develop in parts of the kidneys that filter waste from the blood. He received a kidney transplant from his father in 1995 and when he went into rejection two years later, he began dialysis.

“There’s a lot of medical angst and challenges that come from peritoneal dialysis as a kid,” said Ruback. A common complication of peritoneal dialysis is infection of the abdominal lining. “By the time I realized something was wrong, it was already too late,” he added.

“I’ve continued coming back to IU Health for the continuity of my care. They’ve taken over on my abdominal issues and I feel like I’m in good hands. I sometimes get frustrated but then I remind myself how far I’ve come since 2015,” said Ruback.

Back home in Massachusetts, Ruback was befriended by a service dog named “Razzle” during high school. He went on to obtain his undergraduate degree in biology from Harvard University followed by a Master of Education. He now serves as a high school science teacher. In 2017 he married his wife, Andrea, a labor and delivery nurse. They have one daughter, Millie, 2.

“I am exceptionally grateful I stumbled onto IU Health. My abdomen is a minefield and Dr. Mangus is exceptionally talented,” said Ruback. “Back home they would not consider another transplant under the circumstances, but here they are considering all options,” he added. While he passes the time, he enjoys working on art through the IU Health CompleteLife art therapy program.

“It may sound crazy but I’m probably in double digits now with hospitalizations and yet I love it here,” said Ruback. “It’s so calm and peaceful compared to the Boston hospitals, and the nurses and staff members are incredibly pleasant.”

- By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

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