Ari and Hayley Fershtut have waited for this moment for a long time. On the morning of September 11, 2013 they tearfully said goodbye to 2-year-old Beckham as the anesthesiologist carried him back to the operating room. Their son was going to get a kidney as part of a unique exchange coordinated between Primary Children’s Hospital and the University of Utah Hospital.
This journey started two years ago. When Beckham was born, doctors discovered his kidneys did not fully develop and were functioning at just 12 percent of what they should be. When the time was right and Beckham was big enough, he would need a kidney transplant.
“We had a window of a couple of month that we needed to get this done in order to avoid having to put him on dialysis,” says Dr. Raoul Nelson, Beckham’s nephrologist at Primary Children’s.
Because of Beckham’s blood type neither of his parents were a possible match. Physicians at the hospitals approached the Fershtuts about taking part in a kidney exchange, an option the family was excited about.
“I feel lucky as a parent,” says Ari Fershtut. “Most parents that have kids with chronic diseases can only sit at their bedside and try to comfort them. They wish that they could take some of that illness or pain away. Almost in a direct way, I get to take some of his problems on me.”
“The kidney was something that we personally couldn’t give him, and I am so grateful to those that stepped up and gave him something that we couldn’t,” says Hayley Fershtut.
Beckham’s kidney came from Kristy Buffington, a woman from Idaho. Buffington wanted to donate her kidney to her friend, but last minute tests showed they weren’t a match.
“I was so discouraged that we weren’t a match,” says Kristy Buffington. “Then to be part of this exchange and to have a child involved, it was pretty humbling.”
Physicians also determined that Ari was a good match for a man who has been on dialysis for three years waiting to get a kidney.
The missing link came from a man who until now had no connection to any of those involved.
“For about 15 years I had been considering doing this,” says Ted Bartling. “I came to the conclusion, I had taken enough in life from others, it was time for me to give something back. A little bigger than what I had been giving back.”
The six surgeries took place over a two-day period. Beckham’s took place at Primary Children’s. The other five were performed at University Hospital. Doctors say all of the patients are doing well.
Hayley and Ari say they are forever grateful. “The quality of his life is going to improve so much. He will be able to walk. He will be able to eat. He will be able to do things that normal toddlers and kids can do. These people, who have stepped up to save my baby’s life, are amazing. I am very grateful to know them.”