“We have gathered here to lay rest to hopelessness…Hopelessness will be buried in our past, next to regret, resentment, unforgiveness, depression, and despair.”
– Kateri Murray (now Solberg) Victory Under Pressure
This past Tuesday, on Valentine’s Day, I sat down with my friend Kateri to talk about her story. I wanted a love story, to keep with the Valentine’s theme of this week. This particular love story is not a romantic one, but a story about the love of a mother for her son.
8 months ago, Kateri donated one of her kidneys to her 11 year old son, Collin.
Kateri’s and Collin’s journey of hardship started in-utero, when what was supposed to be a routine ultrasound showed that Collin’s bladder was the size of his brain. A piece of skin was blocking urine output, and as a result, his kidneys were flooding, and his tiny body was becoming toxic. Kateri was monitored closely, and after considerations of a very risky in-utero surgery, it was decided that she would, instead, continue to carry Collin without surgery, and deliver him early with a scheduled c-section. Collin was born at 30 weeks and rushed to the NICU, where they some lung problems were discovered.
Kateri goes into detail about her pregnancy, Collin’s birth, and their first couple of years together in a book she wrote entitled Victory Under Pressure (this is the meaning of the name, Collin). The book covers the very beginning of what has been a long and very difficult journey. She brings her reader through the personal and deeply felt concerns and prayers of a mother that must watch her child suffer, while also demonstrating strong faith — the book is largely about God’s role in Collin’s journey.
When Kateri was pregnant with her second child, Collin’s kidney function began to drop dramatically. They were forced to make some changes to his diet and saw some improvement, but after the birth of her daughter, Kateri noticed some strange behavior in her son. Up until this point, despite some physical delays and feeding struggles, he was an extremely bright, charming, and interactive toddler, who knew his entire alphabet and the sounds that each letter makes. But he began to withdraw from the world a little bit, to avoid eye contact with others. “Slowly he stopped looking at the camera, stopped communicating with me… he stopped connecting with us,” Kateri explained.
By age 3, Collin was diagnosed with autism.
As autism is such a medical mystery, and there are a number of things that might have contributed to it. Perhaps it was a nutritional deficiency due to struggles he had with feeding and the diet he was restricted to for the sake of his kidney health. It could have been caused by the weak kidney function itself or the various medications he was on.
Kateri’s marriage with Collin’s father did not survive the stresses of hardship. They were separated, and then divorced. Shortly after this, Kateri’s mother passed away.
At various points throughout his childhood, Collin’s kidney function dipped, but a transplant was put off, since transplants have a life-span of their own, the idea being to only replace a working kidney when it’s function has reached the point of absolute necessity for replacement.
By this point, Kateri had met Chris, and joined his family to hers through their marriage. Collin now had two natural sisters and two step-sisters… but he doesn’t quite see it that way, he just sees all of his sisters. Last June, Collin had his transplant. Kateri had been confirmed as a match since he was just a toddler, and when the time came for her to donate her kidney, she had no reservations. Kateri and Collin were in surgery in two different hospitals, but they were able to video chat throughout recovery.
How is he doing now, with a new kidney? “Since he’s had the kidney transplant he has grown and grown,” Kateri told me. Apparently, kidney disease can suppress growth, and since he’s had the new kidney, his body has been making up for lost time!
I asked her what the most difficult part of the entire journey was, and this is what she told me:
Seeing Collin struggle, not just through the transplant, but even before that. Seeing that he was not very clear-headed… that was very hard to see and then knowing you have no control because transplant isn’t for another 3 months.
Kateri also expressed concern about what he will do when she cannot take care of him anymore:
I worry about his future a lot. A worry about what hands he’s going to be in… I wonder how much money there’s going to be to help him…Where is his next kidney coming from…I hope and pray that he’ll live a quality life.
Collin is 11 years old now and growing like crazy. Some of his hobbies include cuddling, tickle matches, bowling, chasing all of his sisters around, cooking, playing with his train sets, reading, going for rides, and spending time with his family (he is particularly close with his grandparents).
Collin has inspired Kateri to spend her time making a difference in the lives of those with disabilities. She works with a company that helps people with developmental disabilities to integrate into the working world, to find, and maintain jobs. She is also a writer. If you are interested in ordering a copy of Kateri’s book about Collin’s early years, please get in touch with me via the contact page.
You can enter to win a copy of the book by posting this story to your Facebook page and tagging me @eatstorieslikegrapes. A random winner will be selected at the end of the month to receive a free copy of the book in the mail!
According to the National Kidney Foundation, there are over 100,000 people waiting for kidney transplants, and each month brings 3,000 new names to this list. Many will need to wait over 3 years for a transplant, and 13 people, on average, will die daily waiting for a life-saving transplant. But it is our job to lay rest to hopelessness, by raising awareness, and doing what we can to help. To find out more about how you can help, please visit https://www.kidney.org/