My Northern Wisconsin
PHILLIPS: DARYL VARNER, KIDNEY FAILURE SURVIVOR AND FIREWOOD SALESMAN - Printable Version

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PHILLIPS: DARYL VARNER, KIDNEY FAILURE SURVIVOR AND FIREWOOD SALESMAN - My Northern Wisconsin - 12-28-2021

   
Photo by:  David Palmer

Daryl Varner grew up near Kenosha, Wisconsin, the youngest son of two boys born to Daniel and Dorothy "Dot" Varner.  He describes his dad sort of like Archie Bunker and his mom as June Cleaver.  "My mom was wise beyond her years.  She taught me there is good in everyone.  She instilled wisdom and gave me two ways to look at things.  I take after her a lot," Daryl shared, and he felt his mother was the most influential person in his life.

As a young 18-year old man, with that influence in him, he was eager to take on the world and make a good living for himself.  He started working in the degreasing department of a brake lathe factory doing piece work.  OSHA was not around at that time, and while he outworked all the other employees there, he came into a lot of contact with a chemical, tricor ethylene.  After working there for three months, he knew he had to find another job, which he found at American Motors where he built cars.  "It was the smartest thing I ever did," he said.

Daryl would go on to build cars and also train many people on the most efficient and easy way to build cars.  He worked at that factory across three decades, though he would have never expected he would even live three decades when he started working there.  "It was 11 months into my job that I was in complete kidney failure," Daryl shared.  The kidney failure happened due to the chemicals he worked with at the brake lathe factory.  The doctors were able to keep his kidneys working well enough for 14 years.  "I took 22 pills per day."

By 1985, at the age of 32, Daryl's health was very deteriorated, and he was undergoing dialysis three times per week.  His father, feeling that no son of his should have to struggle with kidney failure, discovered he was a match and gave Daryl a kidney.  "His kidney lasted for 30 years," Daryl explained.  His father went on to live a full life, passing on many years later at 78 years old (not due to kidney issues), and living all those years knowing he had given his son a great gift, the gift of a second chance at life.

Though still needing to take medication so that his body would not reject the kidney, Daryl had a new lease on life.  He moved onto a new career, which he enjoyed for 16 years.  "It was my dream job," Daryl explained about working as the custom carpenter for a hospital.  "I built computer work stations, the nurses' stations, everything.  I absolutely just loved that job.  I had free-range to create anything that I wanted to.  It was an awesome job."

Years later, Daryl moved to Phillips, calling the northwoods home.  He currently works at the local grocery store where he is a familiar face to many residents.  "I enjoy seeing all the customers," he said.

Along with working at the grocery store, Daryl sells firewood through his business, Daryl's Firewood, https://www.DarylsFirewood.com, which he started in Phillips in 2008.  However, he first got started in the firewood business in the 1970s when he installed a wood burner in his house.  Since then, he has learned a lot about the business.  People often tell him he should charge more for his firewood products, as he sells wood for stoves and also for campfires, but he said he is happy to provide a quality product at an inexpensive price.  "My clients appreciate the quality and that pleases me," Daryl said of his internal compensation for a job well done.  He really enjoys meeting with his clients, and he also enjoys the solitude of being out in the woods.

His solitude was broken, however, around 2017 when he, once again, went into kidney failure.  He was in search of a kidney, but had reached only dead ends until a man named Dan came into a local supper club where Daryl often dines and said, "I hear somebody needs a kidney."  Daryl was not present in that moment, but the man was given his phone number, and he called Daryl, who was sitting in his car taking a break from a class he had been attending that day.  While Daryl was doctoring at Froedtert in Milwaukee, the man wanted to use Mayo Clinic, which Daryl said was fine.  In the meantime, Dan went to Froedtert and found that, sadly, he was not a match for Daryl.  However, Dan went one more step above and beyond and told the hospital that if they could find Daryl a kidney from a match, Dan would donate his to someone in need.  As luck would have it, Rose, then a stranger but now a friend to Daryl, stopped by Froedtert Hospital asking how she could donate a kidney to someone in need, and she was Daryl's match.  The transplant was a success.  "The most special thing anyone has ever done for me," Daryl reflected on the two kidneys he has received, "was giving me life...twice."

While happy with those new leases in life, Daryl admitted that if he was granted one wish, it would be "to have not had my life-threatening diseases.  If I had better health, I wonder how different my life would have been."  Regardless of that thought, Daryl said he doesn't look at it as "Why me?"  He looks at it as "Why not me?"  "Other people have had hard times, too."  Daryl reflected on September 11, 2001.  "The day the United States of America could be made to look like a war zone....I just looked at something like that which happened on our soil and seeing those folks jumping out of windows was just awful.  It just moved me and made a giant impression."  That was certainly a terrible time for our country and those people directly impacted by the attack who had to overcome their hard times, too.  More locally, a customer at the grocery store shared a hard time with Daryl.  While experiencing a trying medical situation, he told Daryl, "If you could do it, I knew I could do it, too."  Daryl reflected, "Maybe that's my purpose."

To provide hope to others is something Daryl strives to achieve.  "Never give up," he said.  "I am passionate about life and people.  The day you decide not to get out of bed is the day you die.  I always look forward to a new day."  He said the thing that has brought him the most happiness is simply realizing what happiness is and knowing how to find it daily.  "If I fulfill something positive each day, I'm happy.  That brings me contentment to know I did the best I could and to do something positive.  You need to fulfill something positive each day."

In that regard, Daryl said his advice to the next generation would be not to participate in idle gossip and to follow the expression 'To thy own self be true.'  "You have to be true to yourself.  You've got to take life on life's terms.  It's not going to be an easy road but with determination and a need and a want, you'll get there.  Nobody's going to hand it to you, and if they do hand it to you, it isn't going to last.  It takes work and determination and then you will appreciate it a lot more than if somebody tried to pad your way."  Daryl admitted he tries to be the best person he can be.  That's his motto in life.  While it "hasn't all been a picnic," mostly due to his medical situation, Daryl admitted, "I have a lot of things to kind of be thankful for."  One of those things is that the doctors have told him no one has survived as long as he has on anti-rejection drugs.  He also said people have to keep their chin up and that finding love makes life easier.  "I think everybody should have love, whether its for nature, trees, grass, pets, people.  It gives us hope."

Daryl has found love in things, people, and dogs.  As for things, he collects antiques.  He hopes to add on a room so he can better display his beer sign collection.  It's one of those many goals that gives him the desire to get up in the morning.

As for the dogs in his life, Daryl and David have adopted eight rescue dogs thus far.  He treats his dog, Max, for diabetes, and since his companion, Bella, recently passed on due to cancer, Daryl knew it was time to rescue another dog.  While at an appointment for the skin cancer he gets as an effect of the anti-rejection drugs he has to take, he stopped by a pet shelter and met a Boston Terrier, Moria, that stole his heart and now also steals some space on the sofa as she is the latest addition to the family.

In regard to people, Daryl said his favorite vacation was one he took a few years back with David Palmer.  They took a 35 foot motor home to Mt. Rushmore.  On the way there, however, Daryl was driving and noticed that no moisture was coming off the tires of the other cars in South Dakota.  "My dad always taught me, when you don't see the moisture coming off the tires of the other cars coming past you, that means the road's freezing.  All of a sudden I realized there was no moisture coming off the other cars' tires, and I felt the motor home slip, and I thought we don't need this thing falling off the road.  I didn't want to say anything to Dave, but I knew it was icy so I turned off."  He didn't want to be driving such a large vehicle on icy roads, so he found a truck stop and they spent the night there with the locals.  They also grilled salmon, watched TV, and took in the moment while the weather went wild outside.  "It was just a great time and one of the most memorable times.  That was very special," Daryl shared.

While enjoying the people, pets, and things in his life, Daryl will continue to enjoy interacting with customers at the grocery store and clients of his firewood business.  To see a short, interesting video of how Daryl makes his firewood, view his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/darylsfirewood.  While there, follow his page, as Daryl plans to share additional interesting posts in the future.

If you would like more information on saving a life through organ donation, you can take the simple step of noting your intent on your driver's license or you can do further research and take additional steps at https://www.organdonor.gov/

Written By:  Lynne Bohn, MyPriceCounty.com