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In addition to being relatives, Susie Percy, her brother Paul Bears, Jr., her father Paul Bears, Sr. and his brother-in-law Bill Cashell all have one thing in common — they each have one kidney.
“Kidney donation is a family affair,” says Susie.
Thirty-four years ago, Bill Cashell gave a kidney to his son Sean, who was born with a rare genetic condition called Alport syndrome. Eleven years later, when Sean needed a new kidney, his Uncle Paul, Sr. stepped forward. And nine years after that, when Sean was experiencing rejection, Paul Jr. offered to donate to his cousin.
Fast forward 14 years.
“We call him ‘the little man,’” says Lauren Messier. “It’s part of how he looks, but it’s also the way he acts. He just makes us laugh.”
Laughter didn’t come easy the first few months after he was born. Gavin had end-stage renal disease. His mother Samantha ‘Sam’ Grota was told he would need a kidney transplant, and he needed one sooner rather than later.
But the story behind Gavin’s transplant doesn’t begin with his birth; it begins with the birth of a friendship between Lauren and Sam, when the two — now 30-year-olds — first met in a Fairhaven, Massachusetts, middle school. …
It was “lucky 13” for the Boston Children’s Hospital Pediatric Transplant Center this January. Thirteen lives were saved by organ transplantation. Seven kidneys, three hearts, two livers and one pair of lungs were transplanted during the record-breaking month.
So what does it take to perform 13 transplants in 17 days?
“It takes a team,” says Dr. Heung Bae Kim, director of the Boston Children’s Pediatric Transplant Center. “We are very fortunate to have the talent and the resources necessary, so that when we call and say, ‘We have this many kids coming in for transplants,’ the team is ready, no matter what.”
Sixteen-year-old TJ Gregory is one of the lucky 13. He received a heart transplant in mid-January. He had been on the waiting list since October. Born with a serious heart defect called transposition of the great arteries, in which two main arteries leaving the heart are reversed, TJ has struggled with heart issues his entire life. At 40 days old, he had already undergone two open-heart surgeries.
“I was watching a playoff game on TV when Dr. [Elizabeth] Blume (medical director, Boston Children’s Heart Transplant Program) called and asked what I was doing,” says TJ’s dad Todd Gregory, “I told her I was watching the game and she said, ‘Do you think you could get it on the radio?’ As soon as she said that, I knew. I knew TJ had a heart.” …
When the phone rang at the Natale family home in Loudonville, New York, during the early morning hours of Jan. 12, 2013, Nathan Natale knew exactly what it meant.
“My little sister had someone sleeping over. And I was like, ‘hello parents of friend, we gotta go.’”
The phone call was from Boston Children’s Hospital. A donor match had been found. The Natales quickly packed, hopped in the car and began the three-hour journey to the hospital for Nathan’s kidney and intestine transplant. But Nathan’s transplant journey didn’t begin here. It began five years earlier following a routine surgery. …