Kidney transplant: A mother’s gift to her son

"I was just being a mom. He needed something I could give to him, and I did."

By: Sanford Health News .

Mother and son happy playing legos
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John Crandall is feeling great, which is maybe not what you would except from a young boy who has had a kidney transplant, a gift of life from a very special person, this mom.

“Both my husband, Daro, and I were tested,” says Kim Crandall. “It really was a long process. I would take a test and the results wouldn’t look good, but the doctors said we can stop or we can redo it next month. And so of course we kept trying. And thankfully I turned out to be a match.”

The Crandalls knew that at some point their son was going to need a kidney transplant. John was born with chronic renal failure. His kidneys would never function as they should, which can lead to serious complications. However, John has been extremely lucky. He spent less than three months in the hospital after he was born and since then has had a fairly normal and healthy life.

“We had some issues around his second birthday,” says John’s mom, Kim Crandall. “He just didn’t want to eat anything. So we had a feeding tube put in so he could gain some weight back. But really other than that, he has been a pretty healthy kid.”

Time for a transplant

Currently the Crandalls live in Watertown, but they moved to the Dakotas from Minnesota where John had originally gotten his care.

“John’s nephrologist retired about the same time we moved,” says Kim. “We saw that as a great opportunity to start receiving John’s care someplace closer to where we are now. We went to Sanford first and thought we would check it out and see how it felt. And we were so impressed. Dr. Sanders and Dr. Burris were amazing. We felt instantly at ease and had great confidence in their ability to care for our family.”

John’s good health maintained for a bit until his renal function started to steadily decrease. John’s doctors and parents set a tentative transplant date  hoping he could go another year without a transplant. However as the year progressed, John’s condition grew progressively worse and the transplant date was moved to a sooner date. John and Kim arrived at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, S.D., for surgery and both did perfectly.

“While we were recovering, I was so proud that I could get up and walk to the door,” remembers Kim. “But then I would get videos of John walking up and down the halls of the Children’s Hospital and just couldn’t believe how great he was doing.”

A surreal experience

Kim was discharged a few days after surgery, but stayed with John as he recovered. And thanks to the facility being so close the Crandalls home, it was easy for the rest of the family to visit.

“Having to travel only about an hour and a half made a huge difference,” says Kim. “We had three other kids that would still need to be in school, so this really helped keep the disruption to a minimum.”

Kim is also thankful to the staff that cared for both her and her son.

“The nurses at Sanford were amazing,” says Kim. “They were fantastic with John and made it all look so easy and fun. And I think that really helped because we never felt scared or stressed. Plus after John returned to school, a member of the transplant team came and spoke to his class. She explained all about the surgery and really showed that he was still just a normal kid. That was so special.”

A few months post surgery, both John and Kim are continuing to do well. In fact, they both returned to work and school just five and a half weeks after surgery.

“The whole process was just a surreal experience,” says Kim. “You hear a lot that donors are heroes and I totally understand that, but I guess I just never felt like that. I was just being a mom. He needed something I could give to him, and I did.”