When Matt Harrell appeared in Kidstuff in 1985, he looked the picture of health, an adorable 3-year-old smiling and playing with his big brother, Chris. It was impossible to tell that two months earlier, renal failure had nearly killed him.
Matt’s illness had come on without warning. His mother, Karen Harrell, went quickly from phoning the pediatrician about her fussy child to praying for his survival at his hospital bedside.
Matt was suffering from hemolytic uremic syndrome – HUS – a rare, life-threatening kidney disease that required the experience of the pediatric specialists at CHKD.
In the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, specialists decided that dialysis was Matt’s best chance for survival. After nearly three weeks of dialysis in intensive care and pulling through a potentially deadly heart complication, Matt’s family and his care team were overjoyed when his kidneys began to function and eventually returned to normal.
While Matt has few memories of that time, he does remember the times that followed as he continued to be seen by the renal specialists at CHKD over the years. And when he was 16, he was diagnosed with diabetes by a CHKD endocrinologist.
“Finding out that I was diabetic on top of everything else was hard,” Matt recalls. “It was a big lifestyle change, but Dr. [Reuben] Rohn helped me through and showed me how to manage it.”
Matt’s challenges didn’t end there. “By 18, my kidney function had deteriorated. I needed either dialysis or a transplant,” he said. “My mom was a perfect match.” Since his transplant surgery, Matt says he’s “100 percent better.” Now 26, he is happily married to Jennifer and works in automobile sales, specializing in classic cars.
He has fond memories of CHKD. “People always knew my name. It was comforting,” he said.
This story was featured in the third quarter 2008 issue of KidStuff, a publication of Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters.