What kind of anniversary does a 2-year-old have to celebrate? If you're Addie Sylvester, you have a transplantaversary. (Yup, that's a thing.) And Addie recently celebrated hers with the Mayo Clinic transplant team and donor (also known as Mom) that made it all possible. It was a milestone the Sylvesters weren't always sure they'd reach.
As KAAL-TV tells it, the story begins when Amber Sylvester was 27 weeks pregnant with Addie and her twin brother, Dustin. That's when Amber, a pediatric nurse at Mayo Clinic, got the news no parent wants to hear: There's a problem. During what was supposed to be a routine appointment, an ultrasound revealed there was no amniotic fluid around Addie. When the ultrasound tech left the room and came back with two doctors, Amber and her husband, Mike, knew the situation was "grim," Amber tells KAAL. The doctors told the Sylvesters their daughter was unlikely to survive birth, and if she did, her lungs and kidneys would likely fail her. "In a second, I felt like our life was shattered," Amber says.
Thankfully, Addie beat the first prediction. But shortly after she and Dustin were born, Addie was diagnosed with an "obstruction to her kidneys" that "led to kidney failure," according to the Rochester Post-Bulletin. That's when doctors told the Sylvesters that Addie would need a transplant. Both parents were approved as donors, but with smaller, younger kidneys, Amber was deemed the better match. And on June 23, 2014, surgeon Mikel Prieto, M.D., transplanted one of those kidneys into little Addie.
Doctors had told the Sylvesters that after transplant, Addie "would have more energy and be so much happier," Amber tells us, adding that she didn't think that was possible. But Addie "did find more energy," and her parents now "realize how sick she really was pre-transplant." During the year-and-a-half leading up to surgery, Addie was "in and out of the hospital" — and her family was always close by to support her. That's why the transplant has made such a difference not just for Addie, but for Dustin and her parents as well. "Our quality of life is 100 percent better," says Amber. The family can now schedule play dates instead of doctor appointments, she says. They were even able to take their first family vacation together last August.
Amber says the experience gave her a new appreciation for "all of the doctors and nurses that I normally work with," and that she's grateful for "all the grace that they extended to us" during Addie's journey. She adds that being "on the other side of my profession" has changed the way she feels about her job. "I empathize with my patients more," she tells us. And with their parents, too, we imagine.
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