Addie and Max Have a Christmas to Remember

Addie and Max GrahamWhen they surround themselves with Santa Claus and family on Christmas Day, Addie and Max Graham will celebrate a whole lot more than just a new red wagon and last Saturday’s birthday. They’ll also celebrate a gift of life that’s wrapped forever in the love of their parents.

“We didn’t think twice about donating a kidney to our kids,” said mom and 9th grade teacher Stephanie Graham of Houston, who gave one of her kidneys to Addie in a “live donor” transplant last May at Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Then, earlier this month on December 11, dad Al donated a kidney to son Max. “We were thrilled to discover we were a match and could save our babies’ lives,” said Al.

Addie and Max were born nine weeks premature to the first-time parents on December 22, 2010, back home in Houston. But tests showed a deadly disorder in the babies’ urine, called congenital nephrotic syndrome. This led to more than eight months in a Texas neonatal intensive care unit. Additionally, both had hearing deficits and Max had cerebral palsy. Once finally home, the children had to endure kidney dialysis from 14 to 20 hours a day.

In the meantime, there were endless surgeries and near-death moments. Both children desperately needed a kidney transplant. But unfortunately, most transplant centers have no experience transplanting kidneys in children weighing less than 15 kilograms (around 33 lbs.). Both Addie and Max were smaller. That’s when the Grahams found the nephrology and kidney transplant team at Packard Children’s, one of America’s top three in volume, outcomes and treatment. “We have exceptional experience and success transplanting smaller kids like Addie and Max,” said Gerri James, RN, kidney transplant coordinator.

On May 8 of this year, surgeon Waldo Concepcion, MD, performed double duty by removing one of Stephanie’s kidneys at Stanford Hospital and then dashing over to Packard Children’s to give Addie her mother’s healthy kidney. Addie’s health turned around drastically. “Afterwards, Addie started walking for the first time ever,” said Stephanie.

Then, Al went through the same lifesaving drill this month. Amy Gallo, MD, led Al’s surgery at Stanford Hospital, and Dr. Concepcion took the hand-off of dad’s kidney for Max’s surgery at Packard Children’s.

Stephanie and Al are beyond happy that their children can now live, though challenges remain with the hearing and cerebral palsy. But both parents are educators, and what they’ve been through gives them more purpose than ever. We believe Mom says it best in her extraordinary blog, Medicines, Madness and Miracles.

“Perhaps because I am a teacher, I know I want to teach other people about Addie and Max,” wrote Stephanie. “I want to educate people about children with disabilities, I want to advocate for my children and for others like them and above all else, I want to use my words and my story to show everyone how beautiful and amazing and strong Addie and Max are.”


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