Thursday, December 3, 2009

Socorro Teen Receives Kidney From Her Mom

By Gary Jaramillo
(First of a two-part series)

SOCORRO -- I recently visited with the Crespin family –Mom and Dad – Shanon and Jenny, and children –Janessa, Nicole and Joseph at their home on Melody Loop. The purpose of my visit was to talk with all of them about the catastrophe that had visited their home in a very silent way. Luckily it didn’t turn deadly. It all happened in a matter of months and changed their way of life forever.
As I walked in the home and was greeted by the Crespin family, everything seemed normal. It was like any other family home after a long day of work, school and daily living. The television was on and everyone was going about their lives as usual. I couldn’t pick up any signs that this family had been through the terrible ordeal I had heard about. All the kids looked fine and the parents seemed calm and in relaxed moods. Everyone was smiling and very pleasant. I was invited in and we all sat at the dining room table.
I was introduced to Janessa Crespin, 17, and a junior at Socorro High School who had unknowingly began her private nightmare some two years prior to the day in January of this year when her world fell apart. She never felt bad or complained to her parents about any illness or physical problems at all. She’d go to school, go to baseball practice and games, walk in the front door, drop her gym bag and fall to sleep immediately on the sofa, many times until the next morning.
Mom and Dad thought what every parent thinks when a kid who goes to school all day and then competes in athletics and comes home and crashes, she’s just bushed. Soon enough, Shanon and Jenny noticed that Janessa wasn’t looking the same and they begin to ask themselves questions.
Janessa has asthma, maybe that’s it? It wasn’t unusual for her to get a little sick during the change of seasons with her asthma so they thought that was it for sure. The usual flu possibilities came up and every other thing parents try to think of when their child is not looking well. They decided because she really wasn’t complaining much that after Christmas they would take her in to see their family doctor and maybe have some blood tests done.
What mom and dad didn’t know was that their daughter’s kidneys were in end stage renal failure and in fact already had all but disappeared, and the reality was that Janessa’s kidneys were virtually gone.
The first results from blood tests taken at the family doctor’s office after the holidays said that she was anemic and she was prescribed Iron pills. Mom and Dad were happy that they had probably found out what was wrong and felt great relief that it wasn’t something more serious. There were still some results that they were waiting on, but it seemed everything would be fine. Mom and Dad said it felt like they had dodged a bullet and they could relax a little bit after the first news from the doctor’s office.
As I sat at the dining room table with the family and we began to get further into their story, I could see the emotions begin to build in their eyes and some nervousness in their hand gestures and body movements. I begin to feel terrible for asking them to relive the worst moments, hours and months of their lives for me. I knew it would get worse as we continued but I think we all knew that their story had to be told and it would help so many families in Socorro to understand that they are not alone in their daily trials and family hardships when they are faced with serious medical and emotional issues. People may feel alone, but really aren’t. This story will show that giving up is never an option.
Two days later, the Crespins received a call from the doctor’s office and were told to rush Janessa to the emergency room because she was suffering from complete kidney failure.
End Stage Kidney Disease is the medical term. Janessa was immediately flown to the University of New Mexico Medical Center in Albuquerque. The freefall for the Crespins had started, and at breakneck speed. Shanon and Jenny were expected to remember things from their daughters past as little as dates of sore throats, earaches, colds and every little tiny thing that Janessa had ever gone through from the time she was born. History suddenly became so important because doctors were trying to understand why this was happening to Janessa.
A biopsy would help determine why this had
happened but there was nothing left of her kidneys to perform the procedure. Janessa’s kidneys had turned to nothing but small strips of scar tissue. Her body now filled with toxins was pushing anything it could out through the pores in her skin so that it could keep itself alive. Janessa’s body had not been filtering or cleaning anything that she had been taking in for a very long time and doctors were absolutely amazed that she was still living.
As I looked at Janessa’s mom and began to ask her what else they noticed about Janessa before finding out about her illness, she stopped as tears rolled down her cheeks and she said with a kind of gasp, “she was gray.”
Dialysis began immediately but Janessa had to wait almost three months before being placed on the transplant list. The doctors had to get her healthy enough to qualify for a transplant. There also were psychological qualifications that Janessa had to get through as well. Part of transplant criteria is that patients must be able to handle the mental stress of going through such a serious life-changing procedure. After getting somewhat physically better, she was allowed to be placed on the list, and that brought some comfort to Janessa and the family.
Amazingly, Janessa was able to come home after one week in the hospital. She felt much better and also now knew the difference between what she thought was normal and what a healthy normal physical body really felt like. She traveled to UNM Hospital for hemo-dialysis three times a week for 6 weeks. Each session was 3 ½ hours long.
The Crespins told me that there are far more children waiting for kidney transplants than anyone in New Mexico would think. Children as young as nine years old are having daily dialysis in order to stay alive and as many as seven were taking dialysis treatments with Janessa on every visit. That’s where I had to stop for a minute and take a deep breath. It’s so very sad. Some childhoods are not as trouble free and happy as others. I began to think of the kids in my family and all of the wonderful children in Socorro and how very lucky most of us are when it comes to taking our children’s daily good health for granted.
Mom and Dad were trained while Janessa’s treatments were going on so they could give Janessa her dialysis at home after hemo-dialysis was completed. Meantime, Janessa’s brother Joseph, who was living in California and serving in the Navy, had decided that he wanted to give his little sister one of his kidneys. Joseph was not a match because Janessa had a reaction to his blood. Dad couldn’t test because of high blood pressure. They were now down to mom being tested and younger sister Nicole was just too small to have a chance of helping big sister. Mom knew she and Janessa had the same blood type but wasn’t sure about all the rest.
It took the whole summer of testing, matching, meetings, doctor visits, driving to Albuquerque many times a week and then finally after their UNM group of doctors had painstakingly gone through every small detail, the word came that Mom would be donating her kidney to her daughter. The Crespins were now waiting and living the daily inner rollercoaster ride of mixed emotional feelings. Joy, that mom could do this for Janessa, uncertainty that mom’s kidney would work, hope that both would pull through the dual surgeries with no problems, and faith that God would somehow take care of what seemed to be the impossible situation their family still faced.
Everything they could ask for, so far, was in place. What came next would challenge everything they had always believed in, and their families’ love, faith, hope and closeness would be pushed to limits in the months to come.

Photo: The Crespin family sits in their dining room in their Socorro home. From left to right are father Shanon, daughter Janessa, daughter Nicole, mother Jenny and son Joseph.

Part 2 next week


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