Cole Medina celebrated his 22nd birthday on Sept. 7, distracted as he may have been.
The Luling resident and Hahnville High alumnus is suffering from kidney failure, the most recent effect of a near lifelong battle with kidney disease. He is in need of a new kidney, which would represent the second transplant surgery he’s undergone in his life, the first coming just before the age of 5.
That kidney has lasted for the past 17 years. But two years ago, he began having problems that hinted at the need for another transplant.
“Doctors found he started taking a decline (in his kidney function),” said Tammy Nichols, Medina’s mother. “He caught COVID, and that shot things up a little bit … it was enough for them to put him inactive for a time on the transplant list. He’s back active on it now. But he’s had to deal with this his whole life. He takes immune suppression medicine.
“So, a lot of it isn’t new … but we’re reaching the end point where he needs a kidney.”
For mother and son alike, the waiting is stressful and often scary. Compounding matters is that twice, it seemed like Medina’s solution had arrived. But one willing donor traveled 12 hours for an intended transplant; while undergoing scans, some previously undetected complications were found, and it made the scenario too risky for the donor to undergo.
Recently, a second potential donor had to back out, citing personal reasons.
“You can’t really get mad about it,” Nichols said. “You just try and move on. (Medina) is having his labs done now … they’re getting ready to start dialysis on him.
“Every day is a struggle.”
It’s the latest chapter in a year Nichols had already called the worst of her life several weeks ago.
She lost her home during Hurricane Ida, a tree falling upon it to land the final blow. Like others who evacuated for the storm – she left to stay at her mother’s home, out of harm’s way – a night of anxiety was followed up by a gut-wrenching visual provided by a neighbor. In this case, it was a video of what remained of Nichols’ home. She and Medina are still not back at their home, though she said “that’s close” to happening.
“It’s tough for Cole. He doesn’t like change,” Nichols said. “Between not being home at his house, his kidney failing on him … it’s been a little struggle for us. It’s rough.”
The two also suffered respective bouts with COVID-19, particularly worrisome for Medina due to his compromised immune system. He had to be hospitalized for a week and suffered from a bout of pneumonia. At one point he needed to be placed on oxygen.
“It was scary. I know he was scared. He didn’t want to go on a vent,” Nichols said.
The focus now is on finding a kidney match and willing donor for Medina, which thus far has been easier said than done. Nichols and Medina’s brother and sister alike have each been ruled out by doctors as viable donor candidates, which means it will have to come from someone outside of the family.
Medina’s brother suffers from a brain tumor, thus isn’t a candidate, and Nichols said that was tough on him.
“His brother is upset. ‘I should be able to give him a kidney,’” Nichols said. “He wants to help his brother. I understand it, but we have to make sure he’s safe and OK, too.”
With the loss of the most recent potential donor, Medina is back at square one. Nichols took to Facebook to let people know her son’s plight and to call out to someone, anyone, who could be a kidney match.
“They say it’s a 5 to 7 year wait to get to the top of the list,” Nichols said. “He has a good way to go until he reaches that point.”