At 5, James had a different daily routine than most kids his age. He’d come home from kindergarten, play for a little while – and then get hooked up to at-home dialysis for the next 12 hours straight.
“He pretty much had to stay in bed most of the day,” recalls his mother, Kimberly. “He’d be on dialysis overnight, then he’d go off at 7:30 in the morning so he could get to school by 8:15.”
James had been born with chronic kidney disease, and as he’d gotten older, his kidneys had gotten weaker and weaker. Dialysis was doing the job his kidneys couldn’t.
“He had very low function,” says Kimberly. “Kidneys are supposed to filter out the bad stuff, but his weren’t doing that.”
Kimberly says it was hard to go through as a mom. For James, of course, it was even tougher.
“It felt like my body was heavy to carry,” says James, now 10.
Dialysis was keeping him alive, but what he really needed was a new kidney. Soon, they got the news they’d been waiting for.
“The night I got the call, I dropped the phone,” Kimberly says of finding out there was a kidney for James. “I was screaming, and James was dancing all around. He asked me to hook him up to dialysis right then and there, because he knew it would be the last time.”
The family had moved to Charlotte from South Carolina to get care from Levine Children’s Hospital, which has the largest pediatric kidney transplant program in the state. Now, mom and son eagerly headed to the hospital.
“I don’t think there’s a more exciting day than the day of transplant,” says Levine Children’s Hospital pediatric nephrologist Susan Massengill, MD, who oversaw James’s kidney care. Doctors successfully performed the transplant, giving James a new kidney and a newfound sense of freedom.
“They saved my son’s life,” says Kimberly, who thinks of the hospital staff who cared for James as family. “The transplant gave him new life. Now he has freedom, as he says.”
“He’s done extremely well,” says Dr. Massengill. “To look at James walking down the street, no one would ever know he has the condition he has.”
These days, James is full of energy. He loves playing soccer, baseball and video games. And instead of spending hours on dialysis after school, his afternoons are filled playing with Legos.
“Now, I feel like the regular me,” he says.
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