Central Florida families meet for first time after paired kidney donation

Families urge others to sign up for organ donation

The AdventHealth Transplant Institute is celebrating its first paired transplant involving a child.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The AdventHealth Transplant Institute is celebrating its first paired transplant involving a child.

“She has more than kidney disease. She has unfortunately, like, some other underlying issues as well,” Jamie McKenzie said.

Her 4-year-old daughter, Emery Bock, underwent a kidney transplant almost three months ago. McKenzie said when she was 20 weeks pregnant an ultrasound revealed her baby girl’s kidneys were full of cysts and doctors diagnosed her with chronic kidney disease.

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“She was stage three when she was born, which progressed to stage five,” McKenzie said. “We’re definitely happy to have had the transplant finally done.”

The kidney transplant was done before Bock needed dialysis. The kidney transplant was done through a paired organ transplant process. That’s when two or more living organ donors swap to make a compatible match.

“Also, this is a local celebration here in Central Florida because this is the first time that all members of a paired transplants have been patients here at AdventHealth,” Tom Johnson of AdventHealth TV said.

But because of COVID-19 restrictions, the families had to remain socially distanced and avoid contact during their first face-to-face meeting, yet their emotions and joy could still be felt behind their masks.

“The minute that we found out it was a child, it was even more emotional for me, and gratifying that I could get this opportunity to do this but in the same token to help my husband,” Hallie Thomas said.

Hallie Thomas donated one of her kidney’s to Bock.

“When it hit close to home, I think the first thing that you do, you know, is ask yourself what can you do? And that’s what I did, and when they told me about the paired exchange, I said sign me up right away,” she said.

And Bock’s mom ended up being a match for Hallie Thomas’ husband, Richard Thomas, who had battled chronic kidney disease ever since he was in high school.

Each transplant surgery took three to five hours to perform.

“Usually, those kidneys could last even 30 to 40 years. So, we hope it may be longer than that, but she may need another transplant down the road,” Dr. Michael Angelis, a transplant surgeon and the surgical director of kidney transplant, said. “In this case, Emery, both her parents wanted to donate but unfortunately she developed antibodies to both her parents.”

Both families hope their stories will motivate people to sign up for organ donation.

“As Hallie said, my heart goes out to, you know, this little girl who’s had to go through so much so immediately. My heart breaks in that regard but so happy that this is kind of one more step for her to kind of live a happy, healthy life,” Richard Thomas said.

About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.