A mother’s lifesaving gift to her son | Corewell Health

Since 2019, Isaac Fletcher, 13, and his family have been on a journey in search of a kidney.

In 2019 he was diagnosed with kidney disease after a bout with E. coli.

He eventually experienced almost complete loss of kidney function and was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2019.

For three years, he and his mother Michelle would make the hour-long drive from Ionia to Grand Rapids for dialysis appointments three days a week.

And Isaac became a familiar face at Corewell Health’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

He made friends with patients and staff on his road toward a transplant. Isaac and his family spent their hundreds of days in the dialysis clinic playing bingo, watching cartoons, or making arts and craft projects.

“What would you like to do on your last day of dialysis?” child life specialist Mimi Rassi asked.

“Video games, of course,” Isaac said.

After years of countless medical appointments, dialysis was coming to an end because Michelle was about to provide a special gift–one of her kidneys.

“He’s such a great kid and he’s so smart and silly. He keeps us laughing,” said Liz Orme, dialysis technician at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Liz made chocolate-frosted Funfetti cupcakes with sprinkles, a special request of Isaac’s, to celebrate his last day in dialysis. Other team members stopped by with gifts and well wishes.

“It’s definitely going to be weird without Isaac in dialysis. We have gotten to know him, his mom and sisters so well over the years,” Liz said.

But they were excited Isaac’s kidney transplant meant he would no longer need dialysis.

The Child and Family Life team hung a hand-painted banner that said “Good luck Michelle and Isaac!“ with a kidney giving a thumbs up.

The long road to transplant

“We have been preparing for the idea of a transplant for quite some time,” Michelle said. “It has all just been surreal.”

She said the entire process took nearly two years to pull together, and after all that time it seems kind of crazy that the day finally arrived.

“Isaac was both excited and nervous on the big day,” she said.

His last hurrah prior to surgery included he and his dad attending a Winter Jam concert at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids.

Just a few days later he and his mother underwent transplant surgery.

“We stayed at the hospital significantly less than anticipated,” Michelle said.

Doctors told her the average child stays about a week post kidney transplant, and because Isaac is so complex, he would most likely take longer to recover.

“Isaac was released after just four days,” she said. “He did so well.”

She said the first day he peed almost 13 liters.

“They really want to push fluids to water the kidney,” Michelle said. “And we were told that is the best thing for it.”

And the good news: Some of the issues Isaac and his family were anticipating after surgery, he never faced.

Life at home

After just about a week of being home after surgery, Isaac is getting back to his normal routine and a better quality of life.

He’s playing with Legos and video games, dancing to music and playing card and board games like Uno and Settlers with his four sisters Emma, Anna, Elliana and Lillian.

“He’s getting used to drinking so much after years of limiting fluid intake while on dialysis,” she said.

Isaac was limited to drinking 1 liter of fluid a day while on dialysis and now must aim to drink at least 2.5 liters each day.

And since his immune system is rather suppressed from anti-rejection protocols, he’s still not going a lot of places.

But Isaac and his mom still visit the transplant clinic twice a week for now.

“We’re so super pleased with everything,” Michelle said. “Everyone has been so helpful, and it all went so well.”

“It’s just been surreal,” she said.