Isabella Cruz

Riley kid Isabella Cruz
Isabella Cruz, Brownsburg

A lot of people move back home to Indiana for their families. The Cruz family moved back home for Riley Hospital for Children. Gia Cruz is originally from northwest Indiana, but, in 2008, she and her husband Fred were living with their 15-month-old son in San Diego when they learned they were expecting a second child.

It was an easy pregnancy until 27 weeks, when an ultrasound showed abnormalities. At 30 weeks, doctors told the family their baby girl didn’t appear to have any kidneys and that she likely wouldn’t live more than a few hours. Despite all odds, on March 18, 2009, Isabella Cruz came out screaming and breathing on her own. Then, doctors found two tiny kidneys.

Bella was diagnosed with end stage renal disease due to renal dysplasia, and Gia and Fred knew she would eventually need a kidney transplant. “I just knew it was my purpose to donate my kidney,” said Gia. She and Fred decided it would be helpful to be closer to family members as they faced this medical challenge. They researched hospitals from Chicago to Cincinnati and decided that Riley Hospital was where they needed to be.

“There must be some truth to the stereotype of corn-fed, healthy Hoosiers, because as soon as we moved back to Indiana (a month before Bella’s second birthday) she started to thrive,” says Gia.
“She never needed dialysis.”

In the spring of 2013, Bella’s doctor, Riley Pediatric Nephrologist Sharon Andreoli, M.D., said it was time for a transplant. Shortly after they made the decision to move ahead, Bella’s condition started to worsen.

On June 12, 2013, Gia and Bella went into surgery. “It was tough not being the parent in the waiting room, and not being there to comfort Bella afterwards,” says Gia. “I can’t imagine what it was like for my husband.” Both surgeries went well. For the first time, Bella had a fully functioning kidney.

One year later, Bella was seven inches and 10 pounds bigger. She will need another kidney when she gets older, but her family is thrilled with her outcome. “Whenever I am at Riley, I just see joy,” said Gia. “Everyone there is in it together, no matter what their circumstances.”

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