Two-Year-Old Receives Birthday Gift of Life at Doernbecher Children's Hospital

02/02/00    Portland, Ore.

Independence boy gets a life-saving kidney transplant

Two-year-old Holden Kunkle of Independence received an extra special birthday present this year from someone he didn't even know. Yesterday was Holden's second birthday, and, coincidentally, he was fortunate enough to receive a new life-saving kidney transplant at Oregon Health Sciences University's Doernbecher Children's Hospital on the same day.

"His grandma and sister were praying that he would receive a kidney for his birthday and make it an extra special day, and it happened," said Craig Kunkle, Holden's dad. "We haven't even had a chance to pick up the birthday cake we ordered for his party."

Holden has never celebrated his birthday. Last year he spent his first birthday in Doernbecher being treated for dehydration. This year, however, the Kunkles ended up celebrating his birthday at Doernbecher, again, but this time with a new kidney.

Holden had been on dialysis since he was seven months old when it was discovered that his kidneys weren't functioning. He was able to receive dialysis at home until last fall. But then he and his family suffered another blow when Holden barely hung onto life as his chest filled with fluid causing his heart to beat uncontrollably. He survived that battle to be confronted by another. A month later, Holden was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which paralyzed him from the waist down. Since then, Holden and his family have traveled an hour and a half each way, from Independence to Portland, four times a week so he could receive dialysis.

"It's not easy to juggle jobs, travel, family and Holden's needs all at the same time," said Craig. "But his mom and I would go to the ends of the world, or wherever, for him."

Holden's family says things are on the upswing now. They hope his new kidney will help give him the strength he needs to start growing and developing like a normal two-year-old. Holden is expected to go home in about two weeks. A fund has been set up in Holden's name at any U.S. Bank branch.