ANN ARBOR, Mich. –When he was little, Jai’Wan Davis-Harbour loved the story of Pinocchio. He believed he had a lot in common with the storybook character. Jai’Wan felt he wasn’t a real boy, because his kidneys didn’t work.
But on May 9, after about a 4-year wait, years of dialysis treatments and 65 surgeries, Jai’Wan received a successful kidney transplant at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Because of a generous organ donor, Jai’Wan, 11, got a second chance at life.
“This is his home run,” said his mom, Cherisse Davis-Harbour, as her son was wheeled to the operating room.
Jai’Wan was born with renal dysplasia, and his kidneys did not form normally from birth. He received his first kidney transplant in 2004 when he was just 3 years old. But his body rejected that organ and it had to be removed.
That transplant caused Jai’Wan to be sensitized to foreign tissue, like a donor organ, making it difficult to find a match. Jai’Wan has been participating in the University of Michigan Transplant Center’s Kidney Desensitization Program. Desensitization can remove the antibodies built up using medications and a process similar to dialysis, improving the chances that a donated kidney will not be rejected by the recipient’s body.
That desensitization helped Jai’Wan, and this kidney is also a very good match, says his surgeon, John C. Magee, M.D., professor of surgery at the University of Michigan.
“Jai’Wan was very lucky that a donor organ was found. The surgery went well and the kidney began working right away. This is going to be a really good thing for him,” says Magee.
Jai’Wan worked with Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Gift of Life Michigan to promote organ donor awareness and encourage state residents to sign the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.
His picture was featured on posters in Secretary of State branch offices in southeastern Michigan, he appeared at a press conference and did interviews and shared his story in a Gift of Life video.
“In his 11 years, Jai’Wan has gone through more medical procedures than most people will have in a lifetime,” Johnson said. “Today, because of the incredible gift of another family, he now has the chance to pick up a bat and play baseball like he always wanted to do.
“But sadly, too many Michigan people still are waiting for a life-saving transplant. Please take a moment to join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, and encourage your friends and family members do the same.”
In Michigan, there are nearly 3,000 people on the waiting list for a life-saving organ transplant, says Richard Pietroski, chief executive officer of Gift of Life Michigan, the state's organ and tissue recovery organization.
"Because of the generosity of a donor and their family, there's now one less person on that list. We are so happy that Jai'Wan has received this gift, and we are so grateful to the donor and that individual's family for their willingness to think of others during a time of grief," Pietroski says.
Jai’Wan hopes to join a baseball team soon. But this July 17, he already is scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Detroit Tigers game. For that game, the Donate Life Coalition of Michigan partners with the Detroit Tigers to raise awareness of organ donation and give fans a chance to sign the organ donor registry.
Jai’Wan’s already been practicing, and watching his favorite Tiger, Justin Verlander, on the mound. But now he’s happy that he’ll have a new kidney when he takes the field in July.
Jai’Wan named his first kidney Pinocchio, and his new one is Pinocchio 2.
“I want to say thank you to my donor,” Jai’Wan says. “I am so happy that I’m going to feel better.”
About the University of Michigan Transplant Center: U-M has one of the oldest and largest transplantation programs in the country and U-M surgeons perform transplants of hearts, lungs, pancreases, livers, kidneys, and corneas. About 400 to 450 transplants are done at U-M annually, mostly kidney transplants followed by liver, heart, lung and pancreas. Since the first transplant in Michigan took place at the University of Michigan back in 1964, more than 7,600 patients have benefited from our program.
Signing up on the Michigan Donor Registry is simple. Go to www.giftoflifemichigan.org, Gift of Life Michigan is the state’s federally-designated organ and tissue recovery organization and acts as intermediary between donors, their families and hospital staff. Gift of Life Michigan, in collaboration with the Michigan Eye-Bank, provides all services necessary for organ, tissue and eye donation.