At age 14, Andrew Armstrong has grown taller and heavier than his mom Erin, and he’s closing in on his dad Steve-a situation once hard for his parents to imagine. Earlier in his life, Andrew received daily shots of growth hormones and underwent numerous surgeries and treatment for issues related to his failing kidney.

At nine months of age and in critical condition, Andrew was transported by ambulance from a hospital in his hometown of Fort Wayne to Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. Riley physicians discovered that his urethra had been blocked since birth. Erin had what she calls “a completely easy pregnancy” and never had an ultrasound that might have revealed the problem.

The resulting damage to Andrew’s bladder and kidney meant he would need a kidney transplant within 10 years. As he grew, he averaged a surgery a year. Meanwhile doctors kept a close watch on his renal function and in July 2004, determined it was time for the transplant.

Andrew and his mother had different blood types, but Steve appeared nearly a perfect match for his son. When Steve was ruled out at the very end of testing, “it was a hard blow,” Erin recalls. “We thought we would be avoiding dialysis.”

Instead, Andrew would undergo dialysis for four months, and a few more family members were tested. Several came close, but again, they were ruled out late in the process. Finally, on June 29, 2005, at age 8-1/2, Andrew received a kidney from Steve’s aunt. “She’s pretty funny,” Andrew says of his great-aunt. “In the beginning we were close, but she jokes about how we’re related closer now.”

Life since his transplant is “totally different,” Andrew says. “Now that I’m through it, it’s like I’m living a normal life.” He is a freshman at New Tech Academy at Wayne High School. He’s a huge baseball fan-the Texas Rangers are his favorite team. And despite their age difference, he is especially close to his sister Aubree, 7.

Andrew shared his story during a news conference for the 2010-2011 Fort Wayne Community Schools Kids Caring and Sharing fundraiser for Riley Hospital and also spoke during the Majic Riley Radiothon. When kids at the swimming pool ask Andrew about his scars, he says, “I just tell them the truth, like what I went through and why.”

While Andrew is reserved and easygoing, he is also a natural leader-a result, his mother says, of an always positive attitude and years of medical adversity in which he was “quietly courageous.”

 

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