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Kids Day: Looking for a kidney for Leontae

At 15, Leontae Parker is kind, smart and courteous.

He likes the Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks and the Golden State Warriors, and he wants to be a police officer when he grows up. Or maybe a football or basketball player. He's active in his church.

And he needs a new kidney.

His kidneys were removed in March 2011 after disease attacked them, preventing them from doing their job of removing waste from his body.

They started failing the Buffalo teen when he was 4, and he has been on dialysis since he was 5 and lost complete function of his kidneys. Dialysis is a three- to four-hour process that Leontae undergoes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, where blood is removed from his body, cleansed, and returned.

Leontae's story is being told because Tuesday, April 25, is Kids Day. Thousands of volunteers will help sell a special Kids Day edition of The Buffalo News in the morning. The proceeds from the sale of this special edition will benefit Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, Cradle Beach and children in Western New York.

Leontae Parker has no kidneys. He lost them to kidney failure. He had a transplant in 2009, but it failed a day later. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Leontae's kidney problems were discovered in 2006. His body swelled up after a dental procedure to cap his teeth. His mother, Rebecca Brooks, rushed him to Women and Children's Hospital, where he was diagnosed with kidney disease. He was treated, and the swelling went down. But every few months he would have a relapse.

"Children's Hospital saved my son's life," Brooks said. "If it wasn't for Children's Hospital, I don't know what I would do."

"We're able to take care of kids with long-term dialysis," said Leontae's doctor, Wayne Waz, chief of pediatric nephrology. "The goal is to get them a transplant."

In June 2009, Leontae underwent a kidney transplant at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pa., but the new organ started to fail the day after the transplant because of his condition, called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. The transplanted kidney was removed the following April, and his two original kidneys were removed in March 2011.

"Now we are reaching out to the world, anybody, anywhere, to give him their kidney," Brooks said.

Because of all the school he has missed — he made one day in kindergarten — Leontae is in seventh grade at Enterprise Charter School in Buffalo. He has a tutor who meets him during his dialysis. He likes going to school when he can, and he is active at First Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, where he is an usher.

"I help around the house," he said.

Like most 15-year-olds, he likes to hang out with his friends and eat a cheeseburger or pizza. But his renal diet limits the food he can eat. He can't eat cheese, red sauce, Oreos, potato chips, French fries or hot dogs, among other things. He can drink no more than 20 ounces of fluid a day.

"It's very hard. That's why I'm basically begging for a kidney at this point," Brooks said.

None of his family members is a suitable donor.

Leontae needs a live donor so the surgery can be scheduled in advance. That will give doctors time to give him special treatments to calm his immune system and prepare his body for the new kidney. And that means putting the word out, however they can, that Leontae is looking for a generous person with Type O blood to donate one of their kidneys.  The family has printed T-shirts and wristbands with information for potential donors.

"Kidney for Leontae," the bands read, with Brooks' phone number, 716-472-6441. Prospective donors also can call the Erie County Medical Center, where surgery would be performed, at 716-858-5001. If they are not a match for Leontae, they might be compatible with another patient.

"We have to get it. We really have to get this kidney for him," Brooks said.

Leontae has a "smile that lights up the room," said Daemen College Wildcats men's basketball coach Mike MacDonald, where Leontae is an honorary team member through the Team Impact program. A press conference on Nov. 12, 2014, announced his addition to the team, and he was added to the roster. MacDonald said on away games, some teams asked if the Wildcats really had a 4-foot-11, 100-pound center.

Leontae looks forward to the day he doesn't have to go to the hospital every other day, even though he has grown close to Mary O'Shea, the Kidney Center nursing manager, who has cared for him since he has been going to Children's.

"Everybody knows me there. I love everybody there, especially Miss Mary," he said.

The whole dialysis team is "phenomenal," said Brooks.

"She's like our family," Brooks said of O'Shea. "The staff there is phenomenal. We wouldn't have made it without Children's Hospital."

For anyone facing a hard road ahead, Leontae has some advice: "Stay strong, keep moving forward and just pray and believe in God."

 

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