When Ayden met Aubrey: Kidney transplant creates a powerful bond between toddlers

Kidney Transplant

Photos by Katherine C. Cohen

Theirs is a friendship nurtured by coloring books, built on board games and mad dashes down corridors — but also silently strengthened by nature of a mutual struggle.

Three-year-old Ayden Mosher of New York and 2-year-old Aubrey Ferrell of Tennessee met this fall in a lab at Boston Children’s Hospital.

It was friendship at first sight.

“They were just drawn to each other, and they have been inseparable ever since,” says Aubrey’s mom Janna Ferrell.

Aubrey’s story

Aubrey was diagnosed with congenital nephrotic syndrome at 4 months old. By 18 months, both kidneys were removed and she was placed on dialysis, while she waited for a transplant. When her mom wasn’t able to donate a kidney, a close family friend stepped up to donate hers.

Aubrey received her kidney transplant on July 23, 2015.

“We came to Boston Children’s because of the reputation they have, and because our insurance would only pay for her to be transplanted at a ‘Transplant Center of Excellence,’” says Janna. “We had a list to choose from and it was an easy choice, because we wanted her to have the best care. Nothing else mattered to us.”

Ayden’s story

“Spread out, guys! Spread out! We gotta find Aubrey,” yells Ayden as he struts through the elevator doors and onto the fifth floor of the Fegan building.

He knows she will be here — although the visits have become less and less frequent as their medication routines stabilize and their new kidneys show no signs of rejection. It’s been three weeks since their last appointment at the kidney transplant clinic, the longest period apart since their first meeting.

“Aubrey is my best friend,” Ayden says.

Ayden was born with polycystic kidney disease. He was able to be treated close to home until he was placed on dialysis at 18 months — at which point, his doctors in Syracuse referred him to Boston Children’s. His transplant in September was a success.

“Ayden’s aunt, who has four kids of her own, donated her kidney,” says Ayden’s mom Cindy Davis. “She says the best ‘thank you’ she could ever receive is watching him be a little boy.”

Ayden and Aubrey - Kidney Transplant

The journey together is better

“Ayden! Aubrey!” A booming voice bellows through the kidney clinic. It’s clinical assistant Amal Scott. It’s time for vital signs and measurements.

“They take them in together now,” says Cindy.

As the two toddlers zigzag across the corridors of the clinic, it takes several minutes for staff to corral them. Wherever Ayden goes, Aubrey follows; and wherever Aubrey goes, Ayden is not far from earshot.

“When it’s time to go into separate exam rooms, if Ayden hears her crying he will come out of his room to check on her,” says Cindy. “He will go to the door and say, ‘Aubrey, are you okay?’”

Adds Janna, “I am really glad they found each other, to have found somebody who has shared the same experience. I hope we can keep in touch. If they run into each other one day — years from now — maybe they will end up together. Who knows?”

Ayden and Aubrey - Kidney Transplant

Aubrey chases Ayden down the hallway. The two stop briefly to embrace as several staff members look on in amazement.

Sheer joy.

“Look at that hug,” says Amal. “The cool thing that you almost never see at this clinic is when you have two patients who are going through a similar medical journey and can find a way to connect with each other. And that’s what you got with these two. They find their own path, they navigate it on their own, and really they can do it without much help.”

Learn more about the Boston Children’s Hospital Kidney Transplant Program.