Before Max was born, his doctors diagnosed him with a kidney problem so serious he would need a kidney transplant to survive. Around Mother’s Day the following year, Max’s mom learned her kidney was a perfect match for her son. With the help of his care team at Cincinnati Children’s, today Max is an energetic 3-year-old, thriving with one of his mom’s kidneys.
“At my 20-week ultrasound, something was wrong,” Beth says, as she recalls that frightening day three years ago.
Another ultrasound confirmed the problem: her unborn son, Max, had posterior urethral valves, or PUV syndrome. PUV syndrome causes a life-threatening blockage that can damage the urinary tract organs, including the bladder and kidney. Max’s condition was so severe he needed surgery right away.
“Even though the surgery was a risk for both Max and me, we had to give our child a chance to survive,” Beth says.
Max’s parents put their trust in the Fetal Care Team at Cincinnati Children’s, a world-class center that provides advanced fetal diagnosis and treatment for high-risk pregnancies.
Two days later, Max and his mom went through the successful surgery. But that was just the beginning of Max’s journey. Max would need a kidney transplant to survive.
Preparing for the Transplant
Max was born 13 weeks later. He spent six months in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Cincinnati Children’s receiving dialysis and getting strong enough for his transplant surgery.
“The nurses in the NICU were phenomenal,” says Beth. “On the days that we could not be with Max, we would call twice a day. They would update us and make us feel better.”
Beth and Tim, Max’s dad, were also comforted knowing one of the best kidney programs in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report, was caring for him.
“The doctors communicate with each other,” Beth says. “We didn’t have to keep telling our story to each of them. They worked as one. No doctor made a major decision without consulting with the other doctors and with us.”
When the search for a kidney for Max began, his kidney care team worked on testing immediate family members first.
“In order to have the best results, we look for a kidney from a living donor that is as close to a perfect match as possible,” Bradley Dixon, MD, says. “We test possible donors for their compatibility with the recipient’s immune system and blood type, and by cross-matching, a final test that predicts how well the recipient will accept the kidney.”
Around Mother’s Day a year after Max was born, Beth received the news she wanted. “My kidney was a perfect match for Max, and I was healthy enough to donate,” Beth says.
Time for Surgery
A few months after his second birthday, Max received one of his mom’s kidneys. The surgery went well but Max’s doctors continued to keep a close eye on him due to the body’s natural reaction to reject foreign objects, such as the kidney. The post-transplant patient care program implemented by Max’s doctors has been used to monitor patients for signs of rejection at Cincinnati Children’s since its inception in 1965. Rejection that is identified and treated early can cause little or no damage to the kidney.
While Beth recovered, Tim stayed by Max’s side. Max’s kidney function gradually improved.
About two months later, Max’s kidney began showing some negative signs. His doctors at Cincinnati Children’s performed a biopsy to check on his kidney function.
“He was in moderate rejection,” says Beth. Max went through a month of additional treatment designed to stop this rejection, and then a second biopsy.
“The biopsy showed the rejection was gone,” Tim says. “The treatment worked.”
Today Max is full of energy. He bustles around the house so he doesn’t miss a minute of the excitement. His blanket, hastily tucked underneath his arm, follows him like his shadow. He speaks loudly to catch and keep your attention.
“He goes at 100 miles per hour until his head hits the pillow,” Tim says.
“He’s a handful in a good way,” adds Beth. “Seven months ago, he was a lot of work from the stand point of the medical care he required. Now he is a lot of work from the stand point that he is a normal toddler – he’s running, he’s talking, he’s playing. We love it.”
When Max returns to Cincinnati Children’s for his follow-up care, he is treated like a rock star. “Every time we walk down the halls of the hospital, at least one person stops us and asks about Max,” Beth says.
“Even the residents and doctors who may have only seen him for a few weeks take the time to say hi to Max,” Tim adds. “For two years, the doctors and nurses were our family.”
Max’s care team at Cincinnati Children’s will continue to monitor his progress. His doctors agree the future looks bright for Max.
“We feel the reason Max is here today and thriving in all aspects of his life is because of the devotion the doctors and nurses at Cincinnati Children’s have shown us from the very first day we stepped foot into their hospital,” says Beth.
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