What I’m doing on my summer vacation

On July 30, an expected 7,500 visitors from across the country will arrive in Madison to participate in the 2010 U.S. Transplant Games. The games are an Olympic-style event for athletes who have received a life-saving organ transplant of any type (kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas and bone marrow).

Mason is participating in the U.S. Transplant Games for the very fist time, and he is every excited! He will be competing in a number of events, including the softball throw, long jump and road race. Mason’s training for the games includes normal kid stuff – playing t-ball, riding his bike and running around – nonstop. He is a natural at anything athletic and wow, is he fast!

Mason wasn’t always a healthy kid, though. In fact, we knew before Mason was born that things weren’t quite right. He had fetal surgery to save his life. He was born with Prune Belly Syndrome, which caused kidney failure and no abdominal muscles. He also had another rare disease, Hepatoblastoma, a malignant liver tumor. He was 7 months old when it was diagnosed and he’s been in remission for 6 years. He has had 14 surgeries to date.In 2006, just five days before his third birthday, he received a kidney transplant at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin . It was the best birthday present ever! I was a perfect match and became his donor. The transplant went very well and in just two days he was sitting up eating crackers. He never ate food prior to this because of the kidney failure, so it was a sign to us that everything would be OK.

He is 7 years old now and is doing fantastic. We just celebrated the 4-year kidney transplant anniversary. When I ask Mason about his kidney transplant, he says he is glad he doesn’t have any more tubes, isn’t sick anymore and can eat food. The thing he remembers most about the kidney transplant is all the presents, of course.

Speaking from the perspective of being a living donor who went through the surgery – my very first surgery, I would donate again, in a heartbeat! There is nothing that I had to change in my life because of this, no medicines I need to take, nothing. I receive an annual exam for my remaining kidney. Organ donation is a selfless and priceless gift to give a person and his or her family. Transplant is truly a life-changing miracle. Because of the transplant, Mason’s life is like any other 7-year-old. He always has a smile on his face and has a contagious laugh. He wants to enjoy life to the fullest every moment of every day. He has taught us so much.

~ Anne and Mason Grahl, 2010 U.S. Transplant Games participants, guest bloggers

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