Cartoon characters danced across the TV screen as Jazir Westerfield slept on the living room couch.
Don’t be fooled by this motionless mirage, his mom, Tammy, said as her son lay on his back with his hands clasped over his belly.
Jazir, 5, had been up most of the day, delighting in his new stamina, climbing on furniture and frolicking in frenzy.
This a new world for Jazir, who received a donated kidney at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital on June 13, a lucky day for this little boy who has battled kidney failure and been on dialysis all his young life.
He still has to take anti-rejection and other medicines, but gone are daily dialysis treatments and a constant gnawing fear, waiting and wondering if a kidney would ever come.
“We got the call about 3 in the morning,” Tammy said. “I thought, ‘Who is calling me at 3 in the morning, that is so rude.’ I don’t even know the actual conversation. All I heard was, ‘Do you accept the kidney?’ I was like, ‘What?’ I was in tears.”
They arrived at the children’s hospital about half an hour later.
“They did a complete workup and he was in surgery by 1,” Tammy recalled. “It was crazy. It’s the best thing that could have happened to us.”
Born on Jan. 28, 2011, Jazir spent the first four months of his life in the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit.
Yi Cai, MD, Jazir’s pediatric nephrologist with the children’s hospital, said he struggled with posterior urethral valve disorder, a membrane obstruction in his urethra that affects about 1 in 8,000 babies. Because he couldn’t urinate while growing in his mother’s uterus, his kidneys became severely damaged.
Doctors removed one kidney when Jazir turned 2 years old and the second kidney last year.
Every evening, Jazir had to undergo peritoneal dialysis at his Grand Rapids, Michigan, home.
Right up until the night of the kidney transplant.
“I’ll take the ’round the clock meds we have now versus four hours of dialysis every night,” Tammy said. “He’s doing 10 times better. It’s wonderful, wonderful. I’m grateful.”
Dr. Cai said Jazir had a prolonged wait for a kidney match because of his blood type. But it was worth the wait.
“Already we see he is getting great energy, eating and playing well,” Dr. Cai said. “His story is a great example of team work, taking care of a patient with kidney failure since birth due to congenital damage.”
Jazir received the kidney of a 42-year-old male who was taken off life support.
He’s being the actual boy that he was born to be. As I sit back and watch, I just laugh and smile.
“I don’t know what happened to him,” Tammy said. “All I know is he had a nice big healthy kidney. They had to extend his surgery to get it to fit into Jazir’s little belly. It’s working well. It’s doing what it’s supposed to do.”
And that makes Jazir act more like other boys his age. He’s active. Has a lot of energy. A big appetite. And he can now learn to use the urinal.
“He did not pee for three years,” Tammy said. “We’re potty training. It’s hard for him to control the frequency, which can be expected.”
Jazir will start kindergarten in September at Stocking Elementary.
“Our main focus now is getting him where he needs to be education-wise, taking care of his new kidney and enjoying our new life,” Tammy said.
Jazir named his kidney “mac and cheese.” It’s a favorite of his, something he couldn’t eat before the transplant.
“He was on a strict diet before,” Tammy said. “Now he’s like, ‘I can have whatever I want.’ He’s sprouting like a weed. I had to buy him all new clothes and he went from an 8 and 9 to a 10 shoe.”
Jazir plays with action figures, but no one would blink if he declared his real superhero the 42-year-old man who supplied a kidney and a new way of life for a little boy who waited so long.
“He climbs on everything now,” Tammy said. “Even though it’s hard for him to get back down, he climbs. He’s being the actual boy that he was born to be. As I sit back and watch, I just laugh and smile. He has a lot of making up to do.”
Tammy glanced at her watch—almost time to head out to her gig as a volunteer for a charity basketball game.
She woke up her little magic man by “this little piggy-ing” his toes.
She put a fresh diaper on Jazir, got him dressed and packed up a bag of meds.
“This is basically the story of our lives—carrying meds and taking care of the new kidney,” Tammy said.