Jac’Quel Jones gives new meaning to the old proverb that laughter is the best medicine.
The feisty 11-year-old travels from Fort Wayne, Ind., to Riley Hospital for Children every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for peritoneal dialysis to treat severe chronic kidney failure. But Jac’Quel doesn’t grumble about spending four hours in the car and five hours in bed connected to a machine on those days. He doesn’t even complain about the discomfort or missing school and sports. Instead, Jac’Quel focuses his energy on bringing joy to others.
When Jac’Quel was born on March 4, 1998, doctors were immediately concerned. Both of the infant’s lungs had collapsed, and he was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Riley Hospital.
“I didn’t even get to hold him. They took him straight to the ambulance,” recalls his mom, Tiffanee Leach.
Riley Hospital physicians were also concerned with the infant’s size. Tests further revealed his kidneys were enlarged due to multiple cysts. Doctors eventually diagnosed Jac’Quel with polycystic dysplasia kidney disease.
Surgeries, dialysis and medications became routine parts of life for Jac’Quel.
Despite best efforts, his kidneys continued to deteriorate. In 2001 at 2 years of age, Jac’Quel received a kidney transplant at Riley Hospital. The procedure appeared successful at first, but within a couple of years his body rejected the new organ.
Once again experiencing renal failure, doctors at Riley decided to implement a new dialysis plan. He began with peritoneal dialysis. When it didn’t work as well as anticipated, doctors suggested hemodialysis, another method for removing waste and free water from the blood when the kidneys are in renal failure.
Jac’Quel has endured 50 surgeries and several methods of dialysis.
But anyone who knows Jac’Quel will tell you he is always smiling. With a mischievous twinkle in his eye, Jac’Quel playfully teases the dialysis nurses before turning his attention to his fellow patients. His jokes and silly antics provide a welcome and much-needed distraction for everyone in the Pediatric Dialysis Center.
When he’s not at Riley, Jac’Quel attends Cornerstone Christian College Prep School.
“He is an extremely fun-loving boy and a jokester who is always full of spunk and energy,” said Susie Hedrick, renal dialysis nurse at Riley Hospital. “He likes video games, sports and is tremendously artistic.”
Last year, Jac’Quel used his creativity to help raise money for Riley Hospital. His colorful drawing of Santa and a snowman was selected for the annual Riley Holiday Card program. In total six holiday-themed pictures designed by Riley patients were sold across the state.
Jac’Quel also enjoys encouraging other kids experiencing renal failure during Kidney Camp, a program of the National Kidney Foundation.
While Jac’Quel’s condition makes him unique, it is his vibrant character that makes him impossible to forget.