Ed Schuck got a new lung in 2003, and he put it to good use.
The south Minneapolis native and med-tech entrepreneur used his transplanted lung to climb to the top of the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia. He used it to tell jokes and offer wisdom to those close to him. And he brought it to every river he could, where he would fly fish and think about how a person never stands in the same river twice.
Edward Arthur Schuck died on April 2. He was 75.
“We were so fortunate,” said Judy Schuck, who married Ed in 1962 and had two daughters with him. She said she always appreciated his sense of humor. “I don’t know anything about the donor family, but Ed would always insist that he had a female lung. He was just sure he did. He would make really lame jokes, like he had a sudden urge to go shopping — which was not true. He was a terrible shopper.”
Those who knew him say Schuck always served as a cheerleader — perhaps most literally in 1960, when he served as a University of Minnesota “Rooter King,” a title bestowed on cheerleading captains at the old Memorial Stadium on the Minneapolis campus.
Schuck’s professional career included time at big companies, including a stint with Medtronic’s neuromodulation device division in the early 1970s, a time when regular employees could get to know the co-founder, Earl Bakken. Schuck found that his passion lay in helping smaller companies, though, whether by working with others to launch start-ups or encouraging new leaders through mentorship or serving on boards of directors.
Bruce Bowman said Schuck was a longtime mentor. In 1983, Bowman and Schuck co-founded a company called EdenTec, with the goal of using technology to save the lives of infants who were dying unexpectedly in their sleep.
Schuck had an engineering degree from the U, which Bowman said he used mainly for technology marketing and the “big picture” side of things. Bowman, meanwhile, had a garage-workshop design for a new device that could be used in the home to transmit warnings to parents if their child was having breathing symptoms that could lead to SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome.
EdenTec soon got venture funding in the Twin Cities and started selling the machines, alerting countless parents to early signals of trouble in the years before parents were warned to put babies on their backs to sleep.
EdenTec also tried to enter the market for adult sleep-apnea devices, but quickly found that what the market really needed was a reliable way to identify adults experiencing obstructive apnea. Bowman and Schuck soon rolled out the first portable diagnostic device used at home to measure pulse, respiration and blood-oxygen levels in those patients. (EdenTec eventually was acquired by the company that made the blood-oxygen detector, Nellcor, whose technology is owned by Medtronic today.)
Schuck was sick with breathing problems for years and misdiagnosed with asthma and allergies before doctors discovered that he actually had an uncommon inherited disorder called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency that was causing breathing obstructions. He soon joined the Alpha-1 Foundation and put his speaking skills to work generating support for the charity.
On July 3, 2003, after years on the waiting list, Schuck got his new right lung. Schuck would use the lung for nearly 13 years, more than double the average number of years for a lung-transplant recipient. When he died, the lung was not the problem.
“His lung was absolutely fine,” Judy Schuck said. “About two weeks before he died I said, ‘OK, you’re right. Your liver and your kidneys are not working at all, but your lung is doing great — it must be a female lung.’ He thought that was very funny. Above all, Edward had a good sense of humor.”