University of Minnesota

New kidney transforms toddler

A baby with complete renal failure receives a life-saving kidney transplant.  

October 23, 2013

For 11-month-old Raegan, options were running out. Complications during birth had resulted in complete renal shutdown. For several months, peritoneal dialysis had done its job, but it was rapidly losing its effect.

“Her doctors in North Carolina said to us, ‘There’s nothing else we can do here,’” Raegan’s mother, Layne, recalls. “They said, ‘Either you stop [treatment], or she has to go somewhere else. We’re out of options.’”

That “somewhere else” option was University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital.

Doctors in both North Carolina and Minnesota said that Minnesota was the only place that could handle her at her size. “When we heard about their success with little ones,” Layne says, “there wasn’t anything more to discuss. It was either Minnesota saves her, or no one does.”

Soon after her arrival, Raegan started on hemodialysis in one of the very few hemodialysis units in the world able to perform this procedure on such small babies—Raegan was only about 10 pounds. She quickly began to make steady weight gains, while her fluid retention and blood pressure came down. At 17 pounds and 15 months of age, she was given the green light for a transplant.

Kidney transplant recipient Raegan.

A mother of four from Iowa who had read of Raegan’s plight came forward and was found to be a match. A few weeks later—on May 14, 2008—Raegan received her new kidney from the donor.

“The dialysis team, especially, were like family, and the doctors took care of Raegan as if she were their own,” recalls Layne.

Six months post transplant, Reagan had gone from being unable to sit up, crawl, or talk, to pulling, standing, crawling, and “babbling up a storm,” says Layne. “Her doctors told us we would not be able to believe how fast she would develop, and they were right.”

Today Raegan “has reached major milestones I’d never expected her to make, such as physical independence—she doesn’t require braces or anything—and talking and communicating,” says Layne. “She’s really catching up to her peers.”

“She was small and very fragile on arrival,” says pediatric nephrologist Dr. Michael Mauer, who led Raegan’s care team. “Her strength gain with adequate hemodialysis was remarkable, as were her post-transplant gains. It was a delight to see her personality emerge from the fog of severe chronic illness.”

No penalty for being small

Raegan’s success story is a common one for children who undergo hemodialysis and kidney transplant at Amplatz.

“We established this program more than three decades ago and have the best outcomes for babies of any center in the world,” Mauer notes. “While the USA Pediatric Transplant Registry reports substantially poorer results for infant transplant, our results for infant transplant are the same as for older children and adults. That is, there is no penalty for being small at our unit.”

“Raegan was the flower girl at the donor’s wedding, on the third anniversary of the transplant,” says Layne. “If we ever had to go back for anything like this, we’d go back to Minnesota in a heartbeat.”



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