Family celebrates first “transplantaversary”

Jake and Maddox celebrating first anniversary of kidney transplant.

OSSIAN, Ind. (WANE) – A family in Ossian celebrated an anniversary this weekend, but it’s not a typical celebration. It’s been one year since their son received a new kidney, and with it, a second chance at life.

Born with End-stage kidney failure put now two-year-old Maddox Franz on dialysis when he was just 12 days old and made a kidney transplant a necessity. Thanks to the gift of a neighbor, Maddox is now a typical toddler. Hundreds of people came out to celebrate the anniversary Saturday night in Ossian. It’s for good reason too as the odds of Maddox keeping the kidney go up dramatically a year after the transplant. Maddox’s parents, Sarah and Brian, are calling it the start of many “transplantaversaries” to come.

It’s a celebration the Franz family could’ve only dreamed of just a couple of years ago. After Maddox was born, he spent four weeks at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. He was eventually able to go home, but had to dialysis every night.

“Even at the beginning when he was born, it was just devastating because it wasn’t something that we had expected. Thankfully, at Riley, they introduced us to some people who had gone through that same thing. So, that support has been very helpful. Right before his transplant again was very emotional because it’s surgery for our young son who wasn’t even two years old yet. We knew that he needed to be off of dialysis and have that new kidney so that his body could work the way it’s supposed to work.”

His parents, Sarah and Brian, soon discovered they weren’t eligible donors.

“It was devastating when we found out we couldn’t. I’m not the right blood type and Brian is too tall,” Sarah said.

Doctors needed an adult donor because kidneys won’t grow once they’re severed from the original body and transplanted. That’s when 24-year-old Jake Dillion came into the picture.

“If you can share something, might as well do it,” Jake said. “It’s kind of given me a different outlook on life.”

He grew up next to Maddox’s dad. When his family saw the Franz’s Caring Bridge Site, Jake decided donating his kidney was the right thing to do. He’d never met Maddox, but called the decision a simple one.

“I had a spare one, might as well give it away,” Jake said.  “I decided that it would be a good thing to do to give someone a kidney. So, I decided I should go through with it and I did all of the testing and everything passed.”

He turned out to be a perfect match.

“It was a perfect fit.  After the surgery, the surgeon came down and told us that it fit perfectly. He said he’s never seen anything like it, the veins lined up, the artery lined up, and it fit in there,” Sarah said.

“By about five days after surgery, he was running around and just bouncing off the walls. He had a lot of energy and you could never tell that he had just had a major surgery,” Brian said.

Despite a 22-year-age difference, Jake says he and Maddox are a lot alike and has an idea where Maddox gets all of that energy from.

“That’s my kidney,” Jake said. “It was a great thing, and I’m glad he’s doing great.”

“Jake and Maddox became buddies right away. He took right to him,” Sarah said.

Maddox still takes medicine twice a day, but his parents say he’s down to three compared to many more when he was on dialysis.

“He’s grown seven inches since his transplant a year ago. He’s gone through five shoe sizes, and so we’re constantly buying new shoes for him and watching him grow. He just got a big boy bed,” Brian said.

Those are appropriate purchases for this now very spunky and spirited toddler.

“He is a typical two year old and all over everywhere,” Sarah said.

It’s a reality made possible by a neighbor’s generosity.

“It was a gift of life to my son, our son, that we weren’t able to do,” Sarah said.

The average life expectancy of a living donor kidney is about 17 years, but there’s a chance Maddox could keep his longer than that. The Franz’s hope their story encourages more people to think about becoming an organ donor.

“There are lots of avenues out there for living donors. Kidney is one, and of course bone marrow. It is just amazing the number of people that are in need of transplants,” Sarah said. “We’ve had, ever since Maddox was born, lots of people praying for him and lots of support. That’s why he’s done so well.”

Jake couldn’t agree more.

“I’d say consider it. It’s an awesome thing to do. You can give somebody life, and just go get tested,” Jake said.

To become an organ donor, click here.

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