A firetruck, a baby doll, an iPad. Many children will have plenty on their Christmas list this year, but for a 5-year-old little boy and his 1-year-old sister, this year a kidney tops their Christmas lists.
Rachel Bradley, of York, Pennsylvania, is spearheading an effort to find a kidney for her husband of ten years, T.J.
The idea of her children losing their dad hits home for Rachel. She lost her dad to pancreatic cancer when she was a child.
“I know what it’s like to go through that process of not having a dad,” she explained. “So, we’ve really been trying to prevent that from happening for our kids.”
When T.J. was just 16-years-old he learned he had Type 2 Diabetes. At that time, the doctors already noted serious deterioration of his kidney and confirmed that one day a transplant would be necessary.
“We didn’t realize it would happen so quickly,” explained Rachel.
But it did.
The diagnosis put a strain on his heart, causing T.J. to have a mild heart attack at just 30-years-old, while Rachel was eight months pregnant with their first child, Aiden.
Then, while she was carrying their second child, Adelyn, T.J. was forced to begin dialysis.
At 35-years-old he is now on Peritoneal Dialysis, which allows him to do his treatments at home.
He hooks up at night and it runs. Then, in the morning he disconnects and goes to work where he serves as a CIS analysis for nearby Lancaster County. He maps 911 routes for the county’s dispatch center.
Despite his condition, T.J. rearranged his work schedule, so he goes in very early. He wanted to get home in time to get Aiden off the bus.
“The biggest thing that I feel he would benefit from a kidney is obviously an extension of his life and then our kids would have their father longer,” added Rachel. “But, it also it zaps his energy, completely zaps his energy. But, somehow, I don’t know how he does it, he gets up he does what he needs to do, he stays with the kids, keeps them entertained, plays with them still. But, he is just completely drained of energy as a result of his body going through dialysis.”
T.J.’s transplant team has ensured the family a new kidney would restore his energy, allowing him to be even more active and involved with his children.
“It would renew him,” explained Rachel. “And help him feel better and continue to live a happy, healthy life with everyone.
But, the transplant team has also explained to the family that T.J. is roughly seven years away from getting a new kidney based on his place on the transplant list. Seven years away from relief.
But, with the rapid deterioration of his kidney, it’s likely seven years is too long.
“Our transplant team is encouraging us to get a living donor because the medication that they would need to pump into his body to rejuvenate a diseased organ is very taxing on the heart,” explained Rachel. “So, it is really imperative that he gets a living organ to prevent that extra weight on his heart.”
T.J. has worked hard to get healthy and stay healthy so that he is ready for a kidney.
“So that when he gets a kidney, he makes the best of a big sacrifice that someone would make for him,” said Rachel.
The program T.J. is on is unique in that it is essentially an exchange.
“All we need is a healthy kidney. His program does a match program,” Rachel explained.
If someone donates a kidney but it isn’t a direct match to T.J., it would go into a database and essentially, an exchange would occur. That kidney would go to someone else that is a match and T.J. would receive another kidney that is a match for him.
As for how the kids are handling all their dad’s medical issues, Rachel said, “My son has been trying to make it known. He’s a trooper and he’s hanging in there the best he can. He helps with dialysis every night, he’s our little helper.”
Aiden recently had a show and tell at his school where he worked to inform his class that his dad is on the transplant list and needs a new kidney.
So, what would a kidney truly mean for Rachel and her family?
“A donor would change the ending of our story. A donor would give us hope,” said Rachel.
“Ten years ago, I made a commitment to my husband that I would love him in sickness and in health. I knew of his health issues when I married him, and I knew that he would need a kidney in the future. I did not know the future would approach so quickly. If I had the chance to do it all over again, without a doubt, I would marry him all over again. Life is about the journey, and there’s no one else I would rather take that journey with.”
She went on to explain that T.J. is an amazing father and pushes through extreme fatigue daily just to spend time with his children. But, his life still seems to revolve around a dialysis machine.
“A new kidney would give us freedom. Freedom from the machine. Freedom from the anxiety of what if he doesn’t get a kidney. Freedom to live a quality-filled life.”
A new kidney would also help free their children of stresses no child should face Rachel noted.
“My shy 5-year-old son told me that he would be happy if his daddy got a kidney. He has told us in the past that he worries about his daddy. This worry has seeped into school and consequently, he has had some behavioral issues at school. A new kidney would mean less worry and more time being a kid.”
And although Adelyn is still very young, there is no denying the bond she shares with her daddy.
“My youngest, being a little over a year old cannot verbalize her feelings, but, judging’ by the way she lights up when she sees her daddy, I know a new kidney for her daddy would mean a lot to her.”
“A new kidney would allow the children to have their father at their graduations, weddings, the birth of their children and so on. While that is not a thought in their minds yet, it is a thought in ours, and it is an uncomfortable thought,” added Rachel.
The holidays are truly a time for giving. And while the Bradley’s understand they’re asking for a lot, what better gift to give than the gift of life?
If you’re interested in becoming a living donor, please call 717-231-8825 or 717-231-8757.
No matter where you are in the country, T.J.’s donor program works to provide free transportation, and even assists with medical care and care for the donor’s family throughout the procedure and recovery.
Michaela Madison Reporting