For Brian’s family and the health care providers who treat him, each visit is special, a chance to witness the boundless energy and smiling face of a now-thriving child. This particular day in late August had even greater meaning, as the family gathered with the doctors and nurses who have cared for Brian to celebrate the one-year anniversary of his kidney transplant surgery.
Having received one of his father’s kidneys on Aug. 26, 2015, at the age of 2, Brian is one of the youngest patients to receive an organ transplant at Rush. The surgery marked a new chapter in Brian’s life, in which daily dialysis has been replaced by playing with his brothers and sisters, who range in age from 2 to 12.
All five joined Brian and his parents, Tim and Sammantha, as nephrologist Sara Jandeska, MD, the medical director of pediatric kidney transplantation at Rush, cut a cake in celebration of the milestone.
“This is much better than dialysis, isn’t it?” Jandeska asked.
Growing into his kidney
Brian was born at Rush in 2013 with non-functioning kidneys. Because his condition was discovered during pregnancy, Rush’s team of doctors and clinicians were able to develop a comprehensive care plan that ultimately accelerated the timetable for a transplant and the start to a healthier and more active life.
“Our outstanding maternal fetal medicine team at Rush University Children’s Hospital, along with the neonatal intensive care unit, were ready, said Anna Spagnoli, MD, chairperson of Rush’s Department of Pediatrics. “We were prepared to begin dialysis immediately, providing the intervention that significantly reduces the risks for many of the long-term complications typically experienced by pediatric patients with this condition.”
Brian was hospitalized for about six months after he was born. When he came home, he had to have kidney dialysis every day and take several medications.
The dialysis continued for two years. Tim was an organ donor match for transplant for his son, but Brian had to wait for the transplant in order to grow so his body could accommodate the full-sized kidney from his father.
‘He’s a tough kid’
One year out, both father and son are doing well. Brian has much more energy, Tim says, and he feels healthy and is back to a normal routine. The trips from the family’s home in Joliet to Rush have become less frequent, with Brian coming every few weeks for routine checkups. According to Jandeska, Brian will need to continue to take immunosuppressing medications for the rest of his life, but his prognosis is excellent.
“This true gift will enable Brian grow up and experience life without the challenges imposed by dialysis and less-than-adequate kidney function,” Jandeska said. “Everyone at Rush University Children’s Hospital is so happy for him and his family.”
Over time, the Webbs and the Rush clinicians who care for Brian have become like family. The visits inspire the doctors and nurses on the unit, who noticed a change in Brian almost immediately after his surgery.
“He was always an easy patient who smiles a lot,” said Jessica Beard, RN. “But after the surgery he was a lot more energetic, and was more engaged and talking a lot more. He’s a tough kid.”
Highest level care for the sickest children
Rush University Children’s Hospital provides comprehensive, family-centered care ranging from primary care to the highest level of critical care services for the sickest children. Rush pediatricians treat both inpatient and outpatient children, and are leading experts in a number of pediatric specialty services, including pediatric neurology, sarcoma and hematology. As part of a nationally recognized academic medical center, Rush University Children’s Hospital also is dedicated to education and innovative research that directly impacts children’s health.
Only about 5 percent of all kidney transplants occur in children. According to the U.S. Renal Data System, fewer than 1,300 children received a kidney transplant in 2013. Jandeska noted that Rush has completed three other pediatric kidney transplants since Brian’s, and performed 107 adult kidney transplants over the last year.
“I’m proud of the Rush University Children’s Hospital team,” Spagnoli said. “There’s no better reward than seeing an outcome like this one.”
Tim agreed, and reflected on what it meant to be able to help Brian.
“Giving my son a kidney is one of the greatest things I have done in my life,” Tim said. “It brightens me to see him look at his scar and say, ‘my daddy gave me a kidney.’ Today is a very special day.”