Bloomington, IndianaOctober is the month full of raking leaves, falling temperatures, store shelves stuffed with candy and kids in costumes. This Halloween, a Seattle, Washington, family is not only participating in the traditions of candy and costumes, but is also celebrating the two-year transplant anniversary of their four-year-old daughter.
Evelyn Sherman was born on November 19, 2009, the second daughter for her parents, Keith and Julianne. Keith and Julianne instantly fell in love with the beautiful baby, as they had with their oldest daughter, Marilouise, and as they would with their youngest daughter, Ada Claire.
Julianne remembers that Evelyn was about nine months old when she started falling off the growth chart. Julianne felt it had something to do with her breast milk supply, but when they tried to beef up the baby’s diet, there was still little to no growth. There were some other signs that something might be wrong with Evelyn. She was born with a sixth toe and she had wine stains on her skin. When Evelyn was 15 months old, she was diagnosed with renal dysplasia, which meant her kidney had developed incorrectly. Julianne says when the doctors told she and Keith the news that there was something wrong with Evelyn’s kidney, she could not comprehend what they were being told because she just did not want to believe they had a critically ill child.
Evelyn’s diagnosis was managed for more than a year with medications and feedings through a gastrostomy tube. But after taking iron infusions due to dropping iron levels, the inevitable occurred — Evelyn needed to go on dialysis to survive. The Sherman family’s dialysis routine was every other day, four days a week, for two months. Both Julianne and Keith knew that a kidney transplant was inevitable to save Evelyn’s life so they both decided to go through the match testing process.
“I got the call quickly because I’m not even her blood type. That was really hard for me because I am her mom and I want to be able to give her anything. But Keith was a perfect match,” said Julianne. This news put the family’s transplant journey on a fast track.
According to Julianne, “I first heard about the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) in our transplant orientation. I was already a mess. I was crying and overwhelmed. But the idea that there was an organization to help with financing this enormous undertaking was reassuring. COTA’s President called me a few days after I sent in the paperwork. I felt like he really cared about Evelyn, and that gave us hope.”
The Sherman’s friends and family members quickly rallied to launch a fundraising campaign for COTA in honor of Evelyn. Within a matter of months, they had held numerous successful events with 100% of the proceeds going to cover transplant-related expenses.
Evelyn received her daddy’s kidney, and her second chance at life, on October 31, 2012. Her COTA volunteers, once hearing this would be the date, pulled together a Trick or Treat for Transplant COTA Fundraiser that grabbed the attention of local media outlets, business owners, other children, their church family plus many others. Evelyn and her dad quickly became Seattle’s 2012 Halloween story.
Evelyn returned home on November 10, 2012, which was her third birthday. For the Sherman family, life did return to normal after they got through the winter months and flu season. Today, her daily medications are minimal and her food intake and diet is the same as the others in the house. Evelyn keeps up with her sisters and loves to run and play and yell … things she just did not have the energy to do prior to transplant.
According to Julianne, “It was a miracle that God provided good doctors, a father who was willing to donate his kidney and a group of complete strangers who donated large sums of money to COTA in honor of Evelyn just because they knew somebody with kidney disease, or they had a daughter who was three, or they knew someone who knew our family. We believe God’s hand touched our transplant journey.”
Happy Halloween AND New Kidney Day, Evelyn!
For more information about the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, or to find a COTA family in your area, please email gro.a1474812626toc@m1474812626ik1474812626.