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ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) — More than a year ago, Donte King Jr. wasn't sure he'd see his 14th birthday.
Thanks to receiving a kidney transplant, not only was he able to celebrate that birthday with his twin sister and family Thursday, but his whole life has changed.
Donte received his transplant on Sept. 26, 2014, at Riley Hospital for Children. The transplant went so well that the kidney took to Donte's body immediately.
"In the operating room, they said as soon as they hooked the kidney up, it started producing urine," Donte said.
Following a kidney transplant, the biggest fear is that the body will reject the foreign organ. Anti-rejection medication is essential following a kidney transplant, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Tisha King, Donte's mother, said it was hard to not fear that Donte's body would reject the kidney. His doctors said the biggest risk time for transplant rejection is within six months of the surgery.
The six-month threshold passed in March. Since then, the family has only been celebrating.
The Kings will throw a birthday party in September for the newest addition to the family — Donte's kidney. Donte will even have a kidney-shaped cake to celebrate the first anniversary of the transplant that saved his life.
Life before and after
Stage 4 kidney disease wasn't the first medical issue Donte faced in his young life.
He was born with cloacal exstrophy, which means some of his organs were outside of his body when he was born. He has spina bifida, and he's had surgeries on his back and hips.
Donte had to do just less than four weeks of dialysis, receiving treatments every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He then received his kidney transplant. The donor was a 14-year-old girl who had died.
Even though many patients have to stay on dialysis for much longer, Tisha said it was enough.
"Three days a week? I wouldn't wish that on anyone," she said.
The most obvious change, he and his father, Donte King Sr., agreed, is his energy level.
"He didn't really want to go anywhere or do much before. Once he got the kidney, he wants to go everywhere," Donte Sr. said.
Donte is happier now in other ways as well. He can eat whatever he wants. When he was on dialysis, there were a lot of things he couldn't eat, including dairy-based and processed foods.
Donte also has to drink 3 liters of water a day. Water is crucial to maintain regular urine flow with the required medications after a transplant, according to the UCLA Kidney Transplant program.
Donte drinks six bottles of water every day while at school. And when he gets home, Tisha has made it clear that she and Donte Sr. are on him to drink his minimum of at least three liters a day.
Donte takes a lot less medication overall. He was taking more than 30 medications a day before his transplant. Now, he only takes 14.
Donte's stunted growth was another issue solved by the transplant. When Donte was 9, he was the same size as his brother who was 5 at the time, according to a 2011 Herald Bulletin article.
Donte had been taking growth hormone shots. He couldn't take them anymore following his surgery, but the doctors assured him that he would continue to grow after the transplant.
And he has grown. Donte has shot up several inches since his transplant. He wasn't sure if he'd ever feel tall, but that has changed now.
"I'm taller than one of my teachers," Donte said.
Donte is more outgoing than he has ever been. Tisha said Donte would have rather been alone than hang out with his family before the transplant.
"Before, he would exclude himself," she said. "I'd ask him, 'Are you all right, Donte?' And he would say, 'Yeah. I'm fine,' but then he'd just go to his room. He just wanted to be alone."
His personality and sense of humor has grown as a result. His dad said he calls him "Little Kevin Hart."
Donte is in the seventh grade at Highland Middle School. His oldest sister, De'Asia, said in the 2011 article that she was worried about Donte being bullied once he was in middle school.
But Donte said that isn't a problem at all.
"I got friends all over the place," he said.
Donte was out of school for a while following the transplant. When he returned in February, he wasn't behind at all.
Donte had been homeschooled during his time to recover. One of his middle school teachers came over to his house twice a week to help make sure he was staying caught up.
As far as what is ahead, Donte is still figuring it out. He hasn't decided what he wants to be when he grows up.
"I really don't know," Donte said. "I've got a whole lot of choices. And I have a lot of time to think about it."
Source: The (Anderson) Herald-Bulletin, http://bit.ly/1E6oXRz
Information from: The Herald Bulletin, http://www.theheraldbulletin.com
This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by The (Anderson) Herald-Bulletin.
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