Young mom donates kidney to cousin

December 8, 2008 3:48:31 PM PST
If you have a lot of relatives, it's can be easy to lose track of everyone. But what if you discovered that a loved-one you haven't seen in years is sick, and you could help?

That's what happened for the Spann family of West Chester.

Nineteen-year-old Alex Spann hadn't seen his second cousin, Monica Hilton, in about 10 years. But in September, when she learned from Alex's mom, Mabel, that he was very sick, she made a decision.

Monica recalls the conversation with Mabel in her restaurant in West Chester. "She said 'Alex needs a kidney, and without it, we don't know what's going to happen.' And I said, 'OK, I'll do it.'"

When Alex was born, his kidneys weren't completely working. "But they said I'd be fine," he recalls. His mother adds, "The doctor told me Alex would never need a transplant." But in 8th grade, he suddenly became ill. At first, doctors didn't suspect kidney failure, though Mom had a hunch. "I kept saying - Are you sure it's not his kidneys."

"They said, 'Mono,' then 'Lyme Disease,' then they took my mom outside and asked if I was taking drugs," Alex said.

Mabel was insulted at that suggestion.

When tests finally showed Alex's kidneys had shut down, he went on peritoneal dialysis at home 7 days a week, for 8 hours a night.

It takes attention to detail, and diligence, but Alex says it's better than going to a dialysis clinic .

He has become so proficient at it, the dialysis company wants him to speak to other young people who are dealing with dialysis.

Alex didn't get excited right away when Monica made her offer.

"People offered before," he said, "but they never followed through."

But Monica did follow through, and discovered she was an ideal match. That was a great relief, because no one else in the family was close, including Alex's own twin sister, Starr. She has a different blood type.

Getting ready for Tuesday's transplant and the recovery has been hectic for Monica, who has a 7-year-old daughter, Anaya.

Grinning, she says "I have a little OCD, so I have all of Anaya's school uniforms set for the next 3 weeks." But, the family says this will be one holiday to remember.

"I'm going to change my license to organ donor," Mabel Spann, Alex's mother tells us, "because I don't have that on it now. So, I'm going to be a donor."

"I got the best gift I could get," Alex said, "so I don't want anything else."

He does have plans, however, on how to spend his life with a new kidney, "I either want to go into business and help mom out, or I want to be a kidney doctor. I think I understand their situation,


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