12/04/06 — Meadow Lane elementary student and family prepare for kidney transplant

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Meadow Lane elementary student and family prepare for kidney transplant

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 4, 2006 1:45 PM

Ryan Carpenter's family has always known he will one day need a kidney transplant.

Born 10 years ago with a renal condition, tests showed early on that his kidneys were not fully developed.

"He has partial kidneys," mom Apryl Carpenter said. "They grow, but they don't have all the filters."

Her son has been on medications since birth. When he turned a year old, his kidneys just stopped, she said, requiring him to be hospitalized for a month and a half. Part of his treatment was dialysis, a temporary measure, but with 20 percent kidney function, a future possibility.

"We were told that once you go on dialysis it's not an ideal long-term treatment," she said. "They want to get as much out of what he has before he takes the next step."'

The youth has run the gamut of treatments available for his condition -- medications to control blood pressure and growth, shots to help with red blood cells, batteries of tests to regulate his progress.

Ryan, now a fifth-grader at Greenwood Middle School, feels fine, his mother said. To look at him, one would never suspect anything is wrong.

"There are two types of people," Mrs. Carpenter explained. "When you have something like this, they just go on with it and deal with it and it doesn't affect their lifestyle. The other type finds out, and it just devastates them."

In her son's case, Ryan has dealt with the prognosis since birth so he has managed to roll with it throughout. He is very active, but lately Mrs. Carpenter said she has noticed he will come in from playing and admit to being tired.

Doctors have told the family they have exhausted all the medications that will keep his kidneys functioning, but they will not give a specific time frame on when the kidney transplant will be scheduled.

In June, they learned that Preston Carpenter, Ryan's father, is a match.

"Ryan was my blood type," Mrs. Carpenter said, but being a diabetic, she cannot be a donor. Nor can daughter Keeley, 5, considered too young. Preston, however, has the universal blood type and is a viable candidate.

Social workers met with Ryan and his father separately, Mrs. Carpenter said, to allow each to speak openly and not feel any pressure.

"I think they've rolled with it, my husband more so," she said. "I think it scares Ryan a little bit, the reality. But I think once he (has the transplant), he'll feel much better."

As the time draws near for the surgery, both will be retested to make sure Preston is still a good match.

The transplant will not eradicate Ryan's battle, though. Doctors have said there are medications that he'll need for the rest of his life. Some of them, Mrs. Carpenter said, run about $1,000 a month, which would be cost-prohibitive.

"This is a lifetime thing," she said, something the family became keenly aware of when a grandparent tried to take out a life insurance policy on Ryan and was denied because of his pre-existing condition.

"We're just blessed he was born into a military family because that helped out ... but when my husband retires, insurance will adjust."

She said she has never felt comfortable asking for help. Even on those occasions when her husband has been deployed, she said she became fiercely independent -- juggling her children and her job as a third-grade teacher at Meadow Lane Elementary School until he returned.

So when she was approached by co-workers at the school lending support and offering fundraising efforts, she was hesitant at first.

"I didn't want to do it because I feel like once you get started it becomes real," she said.

Several fundraisers have already been held at the school -- proceeds from a valentines sale sponsored by Ryan's first-grade teacher Jenny Heim and her teammates, a blue jean ticket sale allowing staff to wear jeans to school, a trust fund set up by the federal credit union that to date has collected about $700.

Mrs. Carpenter said the outpouring of support has been a comfort, and she is learning to be a gracious receiver.

"I'm doing OK with it but when I stop and think about what everyone has done on their own just for Ryan, I'm really touched," she said. "People that you don't really know that well are willing to help out."

It has also blessed her young son.

When she told him about all the efforts on his behalf, she said he thought about it a moment and then said, "I'm special. Other people think I'm special."

That was something his mother already knew, though. Recalling the prognosis given to the family when he was born, she said Ryan has defied all the odds and hopefully will continue to do so.

"When he was born, they said he would be slow -- learning and speech -- he would not walk at the normal time. And he did," she said. "He started speaking at six months and has been on the honor roll since he's been in school."

The goal now is to wait, allow Ryan's body to grow and ready itself for his father's kidney and to maximize the use of his current kidneys with medication until it's time for the transplant.

On Saturday, Dec. 9, Meadow Lane will host a community yard sale in the school gym from 7 a.m. until noon to raise money for the trust fund already set up for the cause.

Contributions can also be sent to "Ryan Carpenter Trust," c/o Meadow Lane Elementary School, 3500 E. Ash St., Goldsboro, NC 27534.