Belfield man battles kidney failure, boasts remarkable recovery

Matthew Elefson and his mother Tami Elefson share their story of how life changed in an instant and the long, but successful, road to recovery.

When Matthew Elfison's kidneys failed in 2019, he faced a nearly two year long struggle. Now he has a new kidney and is feeling fantastic. (contributed photo / Tami Elfison)

Twenty-four is an acutely fun age for most. Many are fresh out of college and delving headlong into starting their career paths, families and coming to grasp with the cyclical process of learning and conquering the world. But nearly two years ago, a young 24-year-old Matthew Elefson found himself in a much different scenario.

Rushed from his hometown of Belfield to a hospital in Bismarck with blood pressure exceeding 200, Matthew's kidneys had failed. Over two and a half years of dialysis, Matthew now has a new kidney and by all measures of prognosis is doing well.

His mother, Tami Elefson, said she didn’t discover the full weight of his symptoms until after that fateful day.

“I realized that he had reached a point where he was sleeping sitting up on the floor against the foot of his recliner because he couldn’t breathe, due to the fluid that had built up in his lungs,” Tami said.

Diagnosed on Nov. 6, 2019, his first dialysis treatment would come within hours. The process continued with three sessions a week until he received his new kidney on June 27, 2021.


“They said I was on the list, but I’ve heard from other people that you can stay on the list for a long time. So quite honestly I didn’t really think about it too much until I got the call out of the blue,” he said.

For his mother, the ordeal felt helpless as dialysis treatments in Fargo meant many long car rides and the financial impacts they bring — but most pressing in her mind was the physical and emotional toll it played on her son.

Despite multiple tests and deliberations, doctors were not able to uncover the cause of Matthew’s kidney failure.

“It’s not easy as a parent watching it happen by any stretch. But for the person living it, it’s not easy either. I think Matthew is an extremely strong young man for being able to have his life turned upside down multiple times over the last two years,” she said. "Dialysis was not easy for him. The night he was diagnosed I didn’t know if he was going to be coming home with me or not, because they took him to Bismarck in an ambulance and his blood pressure was so high that he was in stroke or heart attack range.”

For Matthew, dialysis was not only a mentally and emotionally draining process, but a physically taxing one as well. Despite the long and often challenging road, Tami said that her son is doing much better.

From left: Nathan (Matthew's brother), Tami and Matthew Elfison. (contributed photo / Tami Elfison)

For now, Matthew continues his long road to recovery, gaining ground each day according to his mother. Back to work at his part-time job with the Belfield Public Schools, Matthew spends his free time enjoying the sweeter things in life such as reading about military history and crafting model ships out of cardboard.


“It’s a lifetime commitment of making sure that you’re taking care of yourself, you’re eating right and all of those things so that your body doesn’t run the risk of rejection. Because rejection can happen at any time,” she said.

From left: Nathan (Matthew's brother), Tami and Matthew Elfison. (contributed photo / Tami Elfison)

Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge. His reporting focuses on Stark County government and surrounding rural communities.
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