Cadwell on the road to recovery after transplant surgery

WKLK and WMOZ radio broadcaster Dwight Cadwell is showing signs of improvement after undergoing a liver transplant at Mayo Clinic this past month.

Dwight and Diane Cadwell
Dwight and Diane Cadwell pose for a photo while out to eat.
Contributed / Dwight Cadwell

CLOQUET — Call it a hunch or a case of divine intervention, local broadcaster Dwight Cadwell decided to keep his phone by his bedside on the evening of Feb. 18, absent from its usual location in the kitchen.

The Cloquet native estimates that he was asleep 15 minutes before waking up to a call from a number with a Rochester area code. On the other end of the line was transplant surgeon Dr. Julie Heimbach of the Mayo Clinic with an urgent message.

Beloved local broadcaster asks for help in time of need

“She said 'Dwight, can you get down here in five, five and a half hours? We have a liver for you,'" he recalled.

After over a decade-long battle with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, that recently required Cadwell to seek a liver transplant, he received the news he had been praying for.
“I said 'Sure, we’ll be there,'” Cadwell said.

After packing up their belongings in a rush, Dwight and his wife, Diane, began the three-hour drive to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, arriving just before 4 a.m.


“We had anticipated possibly having my daughter being a transplant living donor, and she was going through the testing at the same time here and so we were not really prepared,” Cadwell said of the last-minute drive to Rochester. “Normally they tell you they want you to have your clothes packed, everything ready to go. Well, we were anticipating a few months out maybe so we packed on the fly.”

Dwight and Diane Cadwell
Dwight and Diane Cadwell pose for a photo in their hotel in Rochester as Dwight continues to recover from his liver transplant surgery.
Contributed / Dwight Cadwell

By 5:30 a.m., surgeons began the approximately six-hour-long procedure to replace Cadwell's liver with a transplant provided by a deceased donor, which was made available on a last-minute basis.

“The liver that I ended up with was supposed to go to someone else, but they were unable to accept it at this time, so I was very fortunate,” he said.

One of the possible risks associated with the procedure is internal bleeding, a side effect that Cadwell experienced during his surgery. As a result, he went into surgery for a second time shortly after the initial procedure.

Despite the complication, the transplant was an overall success, though residual pain from the surgery lingered in the days that followed.

“I was in the ICU for one day and then transferred into the liver and kidney transplant care unit and they had me sitting up the next day,” Cadwell said. “It was sore and it hurts, especially having to go in twice. It really does kind of a number on your body where they have to go in. My stitch pattern is like a Mercedes Benz logo.”

In the time since his procedure, both Dwight and Diane have remained in Rochester at a hotel across from the Mayo Clinic. The close proximity to the facility allows for Dwight to receive the post-transplant care he needs.

“I have to stay close because they are constantly doing labs and meeting with the post-transplant team and just so many things that we have to go through to make sure the liver’s going to work well,” Cadwell said.


If all goes according to plan, the Cadwells will head back to Cloquet in approximately two weeks, albeit with some lifestyle changes for Dwight to accommodate the anti-rejection medication, which helps the body accept the new liver while, at the same time, weakening the immune system.

Broadcaster calls game
WKLK radio broadcaster Dwight Cadwell calls a boys basketball game between Esko and Moose Lake-Willow River alongside color commentator Tony DeLeon on Friday, Jan. 21 at Esko High School.
Amy Arntson / File / Cloquet Pine Journal

In order to avoid illness, he has to steer clear of certain foods like pomegranates and grapefruits, in addition to avoiding buffets and eating processed meats unless microwaved first to kill off bacteria.

Changes and all, the Cadwells said they feel blessed to be on the other side of the difficult journey, as Diane has already noticed a difference in Dwight post-surgery.

“In the last year he’s just kind of been a fog, just trying to get through each day,” she said. “He was belly laughing the other day, which isn’t so good when your belly hurts so bad, but we hadn’t heard that in a long time.”

“My oldest daughter said, 'You’re like my old dad again,'” Diane added.

Dwight and Diane Cadwell
Dwight and Diane Cadwell pose for a photo in their hotel in Rochester near the Mayo Clinic as Dwight continues to recover from his liver transplant surgery.
Contributed / Dwight Cadwell

Cadwell plans to take it easy for the foreseeable future as his body recuperates before returning to his broadcasting duties on WKLK and WMOZ in Cloquet.

“Everyone has some type of ups and downs with the transplants, so you just go on until they’re down and then you get back and medications works on a lot of it, but the first year is going to be a real change and real process of getting back to where I was," Cadwell said.

Donations for Cadwell's recovery can be made at the family's GoFundMe page .

Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
What To Read Next
Get Local