Coming full circle: Springtown boy's kidney transplant ignites array of emotions

Four-year-old Ezra Patterson is now home recovering from a successful kidney transplant surgery last month.

Krystal Patterson, of Springtown, never expected to get the news in June that her son was getting a kidney transplant.

In the spring, Patterson was told her 4-year-old son Ezra’s home treatments weren’t working anymore.

“We were scheduled to have him moved back to hemodialysis on June 23. We got the call for the kidney on June 16, which was very surprising. [The doctors] told us we were a back-up for the kidney, which usually means you’re not going to get the kidney, but they bring you to the hospital and test you,” Patterson said. “So we went through a bunch of testing on June 16 — he had to have the COVID test and all that stuff — and the next morning we came in and they said he was a match, and the kidney was his. We were shocked.”

Ezra spent two weeks in the hospital after the transplant before being sent home.

Patterson said because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were told organ donors were low.

“It’s not something I expected anytime soon, I was expecting to wait longer because of COVID,” Patterson said. “Donations were low and if anyone tests positive for COVID, they can’t use their organs. The whole process was stressful because we weren’t able to have any family or visitors at the hospital, just me and my boyfriend, and we had to alternate.”

Patterson’s mother Stacey Witalis said the donation, which was from Children’s Medical Center Dallas, came at the perfect time.

“My daughter’s been through so much. Just when she was starting to get really, really depressed because she was watching him daily go downhill — he was not doing well at all — this [news] came,” Witalis said. “It came right on time. If he went back on hemo, she was going to have to go to Dallas three to four times a week and that puts a lot of added stress on her because she has three kids.”

Ezra was born with kidney disease and spent the first 31 days of his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and was put on dialysis at 16 days old.

“When he came home he came with home dialysis and so that was something I had to do — they trained me at the hospital on how to do it and we had to do it every night of his life, so it was a lot of work,” Patterson said. “He was on about 10 different medications at the time. He was on home dialysis for four years and three months, so that entire time he had multiple emissions, he had multiple infections and he’s had about 15 different surgeries. His native kidneys are literally so small you can almost not see them on an ultrasound, so he basically had no filtration and 3% function prior to the transplant.”

The news that Ezra was getting a kidney was exciting, but also an emotional time for Patterson and her family.

“We found out the donor was an 11-year-old girl who was in a boating accident, which was really hard for me because my sister died kind of in a similar manner — she was 14 when she died and she was in an accident and she was brain damaged and we donated her organs — that was 20 years ago,” Patterson said. “So it all kind of came full circle for us, which was really surreal.”

Witalis said they’ve now been on both ends of organ donation and that the process has been an emotional rollercoaster.

“Whenever he went in for his transplant my daughter struggled with the fact that the donor was only 11 years old, but I told her we know how they feel because I lost a daughter at 14 back in 2000 and she was killed on [Highway] 199 close to Lake Worth and we donated her organs,” Witalis said. “So I told her this has come full circle — we gave organs and now we’re receiving them. So as far as organ donation, we’ve been on both ends of it so we know how that family feels and we know how we feel now as a recipient.”

Patterson said Ezra is still on several medications but is a whole new boy.

“He’s doing great now — his color is better, he has a ton more energy, he’s talking clearer, which is weird but I don’t think people realize that when your kidneys don’t work it literally messes up your whole body,” Patterson said. “Before, he wasn’t making his own red blood cells, now he’s making them on his own, so there are so many things the kidneys affect and he can do so many more things that he couldn’t do on dialysis.”

Witalis said you could never tell something had been wrong with Ezra.

“Since he’s had his transplant, he is a totally different child,” Witalis said. “He’s got so much more energy — he runs, he plays — you couldn’t tell there was anything wrong with him. He’s just so happy and it’s just been great since he had his transplant.”

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