Dad Receives Best Possible Father's Day Gift: A Better Life For His Son

06/11/02    Portland, Ore.

Father restores health of son by donating a life-improving kidney

Twenty-month-old Martin Davidson's health is the best present his father, Mike Davidson, could receive for Father's Day -- Mike gave Martin a life-improving kidney. "This really is the best Father's Day gift anyone could ask for. It is really special," said Mike. The Hillsboro, Ore., boy received his transplant on Apr. 16, 2002, at Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children's Hospital.

The first ultrasound on Martin's mother, Joni Wilhelmi, showed the OHSU pediatric nephrology and urology teams that Martin would need two urgent surgical procedures within days of his birth. One to drain urine from his bladder and one to provide a tube for peritoneal dialysis.

"His kidneys were malformed, and his ureters, the tubes that drain urine from the kidneys to the bladder, were dilated from backed up urine because his bladder was blocked by prostatic valves. We were concerned that if his kidneys did not recover, he would eventually need a kidney transplant," said John Barry, M.D., director of the kidney transplant program at OHSU.

"Martin handled the kidney transplant surgery very well. He now has normal kidney function," said Barry. He added that Martin should live a relatively normal life, but he must take medication under the direction of the pediatric nephrology team to prevent rejection of his new kidney.

Joni can already see Martin's progress since the surgery. "He is feeling better and is beginning to talk more. He has even started to crawl, which he couldn't do before the surgery because kidney failure impairs brain function and motor skills," said Joni.

Martin spent his first two months in Doernbecher's Neonatal/Critical Care Unit. He was frequently on dialysis, a process which replaces some kidney functions, and was eventually sent home. While at home, his health was regulated by medication given orally and through injections.

When he was 17 months old, Joni and Mike were tested as potential kidney donors and both were found to be matches for Martin. Mike decided to donate his kidney because Joni was Martin's primary caregiver.

Before the transplant, Barry measured the size of Martin's abdomen to ensure the new adult kidney would fit inside the little boy. Mike underwent a computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan so Barry could assess the size of his kidneys, and the smaller of his two kidneys, which is about the size of an avocado, was transplanted into Martin's tiny body.

Although Martin is required to take immunosuppressive medication under the direction of the pediatric nephrology team to keep his body from rejecting the new kidney, his parents think it is a small price to pay. Mike and Joni are grateful Martin has been given a second chance at a new life.

OHSU performed its first kidney transplant in 1959. Since then more than 3,000 kidney transplants have been performed at OHSU. And 300 have been transplanted into children, 62 of whom were 6 or younger. OHSU is the busiest kidney transplant center in the Pacific Northwest. The program is ranked among the top 15 nationwide for the number of transplants performed, and is among the top 10 in the nation for patient and kidney transplant survival rate.

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