By the time Grace TeBoekhorst received the ultimate gift of a new kidney from her father in August 2010, the little girl had already defied the odds. She had faced a rare diagnosis of FSGS, three weeks on life support, complete kidney failure and nine months on dialysis. All before the age of five.
Melissa and Dennis were hopeful the transplant would be the start of a new chapter for their daughter, however they soon learned the devastating news – Grace would have to continue fighting. Her new “super kidney” was dumping massive amounts of protein in her urine. But doctors at BC Children’s Hospital wanted to try something new. Their research had shown plasmapheresis – a process in which a patient’s blood plasma is removed and replaced with new plasma – had a 100% success rate in saving transplants where the initial disease had recurred. They also started the Maple Ridge girl on an experimental drug to reduce the protein loss.
It worked. Since March 2011, Grace has been in remission. She just celebrated her 10th birthday with a new kayak from her grandmother. She loves being a big sister to her little brother Calym and spending as much time as possible outside.
Though she would love to go to school like other kids her age, her immune-suppression has kept her at home. “It would only take one wrong interaction with someone infected with a virus to lose her precious transplanted kidney, or her life,” says Melissa.
Research has already helped their little girl once. The TeBoekhorsts are hopeful new research happening right now will one day mean an end to the toxic immune-suppression drugs, which they believe is the greatest hurdle transplant patients face each day. “This has to change for our children and the generations to come, and really the only way to achieve this is through research.”