The Gift of Life, Two Years Later

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Bella Cruz, Brownsburg, Ind.

A lot of people move back home to Indiana for their families. We moved back home for Riley Hospital for Children.

I’m originally from northwest Indiana. But, in 2008, my husband, Fred, and I were living with our 15-month-old son in San Diego when we found out I was pregnant.

It was an easy pregnancy until 27 weeks, when an ultrasound showed abnormalities. At 30 weeks, doctors told us our 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 we knew she would eventually need a kidney transplant. I just knew it was my purpose to donate my kidney.

We had great care in San Diego, but everything was very stressful after Bella was born. We knew we needed to make a change. We researched hospitals from Chicago to Cincinnati and decided that Riley Hospital was where we 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. She never needed dialysis.

In the spring of 2013, Bella’s doctor, Riley Pediatric Nephrologist Dr. Sharon Andreoli, said it was time for a transplant. Shortly after we made the decision to move ahead, Bella’s condition started to worsen. Dr. Andreoli had been spot on.

On June 12, 2013, we both went into surgery. It was tough not being the parent in the waiting room, and not being there to comfort Bella afterwards. 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!
That summer was difficult with both of us recovering, stuck inside like it was winter. But we had to tell ourselves, this is just one summer, and it will give us years and years and years of summers together.

Fast forward two years.  Bella has grown nine inches, gained 12 pounds and just completed kindergarten! She has always been a happy kid, even with kidney disease, but now her little personality is coming out even more.

It’s strange to visit the hospital so infrequently. Whenever I am at Riley, I just see joy. Everyone there is in it together, no matter what their circumstances.

Bella will need another kidney when she gets older. We’re praying we get 15 years out of this one. I wish she didn’t have to go through all this, but we are grateful for the outcome.

She’s alive.

Click here if you would like to make a difference in the lives of Riley kids like Bella by contributing to our current fundraising campaign.

Gia Cruz, Riley Parent

Gia Cruz is the mother of Riley nephrology patient Isabella Cruz. In 2013, Gia donated her kidney to Bella, who underwent a successful transplant surgery at Riley Hospital.

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