Children's Hospital Colorado

Jacob: A Fetal Diagnosis Leads to a Life-saving Transplant

Jacob’s mom, Lisa

"Five months into my pregnancy, I went in for a routine ultrasound. I never expected to hear that my son would be born with kidney issues. I was heartbroken.

Teenage Jacob, who had a kidney transplant at Children's Hospital Colorado, stands outside.

The doctor called it vesicoureteral reflux and hydronephrosis – words that were not even in my vocabulary. It meant that my baby’s kidneys were stretching due to urine that couldn’t leave his bladder. In the blink of an eye, my pregnancy turned high-risk and eventually led to bladder and transplant surgery.

At three days old, Jacob has bladder surgery

Jacob came into the world on the morning of February 24, 1998. His first day of life was uneventful and there didn't seem to be any major issues with his kidneys. However, the next day his blood work results came back critical and the ultrasound of his kidneys was abnormal. He was in renal (kidney) failure.

Within the hour he was flown by helicopter from Longmont United Hospital to Denver. At just three days old, Jacob underwent urethral reimplantation surgery to correct the reflux problems and let his bladder drain normally.

After a month in the hospital, his surgery was deemed a success. His kidneys had suffered some damage but were still working well. Over the next several years, Jacob was monitored closely by kidney specialists. His prognosis was good and he was released from specialist care. Jacob continued to have blood work done yearly by his primary care doctor.

After 10 healthy years, Jacob starts to lose kidney function.

Life changed dramatically when Jacob was 10 years old. The results of his routine blood work showed that his kidney function had significantly decreased. At this time, we were referred to the specialists at Children’s Hospital Colorado and met with Dr. Ford in the Kidney Center. He ordered multiple tests and more blood work, unfortunately confirming that his kidney function had definitely decreased.

Dr. Ford walked us through how the decline in kidney function would affect Jacob’s life, and he patiently answered all of the many questions we had, explaining things in a way that Jacob could easily understand. We left the office that day absolutely shell-shocked. To preserve what kidney function Jacob had left, he started taking six new medications and had to make strict changes to his diet immediately. They informed us that if his kidney function continued to decline, he would need dialysis or a kidney transplant to live. How long until this might happen was a question they couldn't answer.

Mom donates a kidney to Jacob

Jacob sits with his mom who donated a kidney to him.

Over the next several years, we worked closely with Dr. Ford and met frequently with the dietician Rose Woloschuk. As Jacob's health continued to worsen, he was tired all of the time, had trouble concentrating, he lost his appetite and developed horrible muscle cramps. His one goal in life was to achieve his black belt in Tai Kwon Do, and I knew his kidneys were getting sicker when he told me "I just don't have energy to exercise anymore." I knew it was time to get Jacob a new kidney. And I wanted to give him mine.

It's hard to wrap your head around all of the details that need to happen for a live donor transplant to take place (even more when the donor is going to be his mother, a single parent.) What I knew from the start of our journey was that we wouldn't be alone in the process. The transplant team at Children’s Colorado is exceptional. The Transplant Coordinator and Social Worker supported us through every emotional step of the transplant planning process – starting with getting the transplant approved with our insurance company, planning Jacob’s surgery at Children’s Colorado and mine at the University of Colorado and all of the follow-up care. They supported us from start to finish. You really get to know these caregivers well through the process and they make you feel special -- like you're a part of a big family.

Jacob hopes to give back to others

We refer to June 25th as Jacobs new birthday - the day he got his kidney transplant and the start of his new life. His transplant surgery was a huge success thanks to his Transplant Surgeon Dr. Wachs and all of the caregivers at Children’s Colorado. At 17 years old, he is looking forward to a bright future.

When Jacob is asked about his future plans, he talks about becoming an anesthesiologist or a psychologist. When asked why, he says "So I can help other people like they helped me.’"

Learn more about Kidney Transplants at Children’s Colorado.