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Goodhue toddler's life saved by nationwide kidney match program

By donating his kidney, Eric Ryan helped save two lives: the person who received his organ, and also his 1-year-old son.
Credit: Rachel Jordan
Rachel Jordan (left) donated her kidney to Gabriel Ryan (middle). As part of the Kidney for Life program, Gabriel's father, Eric Ryan (right) donated his kidney to someone in South Dakota.

GOODHUE, Minn. — Eric and Micayla Ryan named their unborn son Gabriel, after the angel in the Bible who gives Mary the good news that she is carrying Jesus. Good news is something the Ryan family desperately needed. 

"It was a pretty typical pregnancy until we went in for his 20-week ultrasound," said Micayla.

The Ryans were told Gabriel had polycystic kidney disease.

"Both of his kidneys were very sick, very cystic," Micayla said.

Sick kidneys meant less amniotic fluid in utero, which was vital for Gabriel's development. 

The Ryans were told to prepare that they might lose their child.

"There really isn't a survival rate," said Eric.

Then, an ultrasound showed the news they'd been praying for. Small pockets of amniotic fluid. Enough to allow Gabriel to survive before being delivered at 37 weeks. 

He would grow strong enough to undergo a kidney transplant. 

Gabriel's surgeon at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Mikel Prieto, recommended the Kidney for Life program, through the National Kidney Registry. 

Eric described it as a "kidney deal." He would donate his kidney, which was too big for his son, and in return Gabriel would be matched with a donor best suited for his body. The donation would come from another person participating in the sort of "kidney chain."

The program uses DNA to ensure the best kidney match possible.

"What we can do is find kidneys that have the best chance for you to never reject them," said Dr. Prieto. "We take your donor and we use that kidney for somebody else, and we find a kidney that matches you better."

Gabriel's kidney came from North Carolina, delivered in the body of Rachel Jordan, who underwent surgery at Mayo to donate it. She, Eric, and Gabriel met in Gabriel's hospital room shortly after their respective surgeries.

Credit: Rachel Jordan
Rachel Jordan (left) donated her kidney to Gabriel Ryan (middle). As part of the Kidney for Life program, Gabriel's father, Eric Ryan (right) donated his kidney to someone in South Dakota.

Jordan donated on behalf of her friend, Jon Anglemyer, whose first donated kidney was failing.

"So I decided to go through the process to get checked out to see if I could donate for him," Jordan said. 

Eric doesn't know who received his kidney, just that it went to someone in South Dakota, but is more certain of why the events allowing him to parent a happy 1-year-old transpired.

"He's simply here because God allowed him to be."

For more information on the Kidney for Life program, click here

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