ELKTON — Bradley Monger is an 11-year-old Elkton boy who enjoys dancing for TikTok, trips to Walmart and going to the Kings Dominion amusement park in Doswell.
“You’d never think anything was wrong with him,” his mother, Rebecca Monger, said while looking at Bradley in their Elkton home.
Monger stared down at her son curled up next to her on their family couch. Bradley played on his iPad and sneaked a bashful peek at the visitors standing in his living room.
“I told him if he was good today, I’d take him [to Kings Dominion] Saturday,” Monger said. Bradley flashed a smile.
The strangers gathered in the living room were Brian Martindale, founder of Kidneys For Kids, who set up interviews for local media on Thursday with Monger and her son to get word out that Bradley needs an organ donor. Martindale started his Michigan-based nonprofit to help find children kidney donors across the country.
When Monger gave birth to Bradley, the youngest of five, doctors kept telling her something was wrong. It wasn’t until he was born and tests were run that doctors knew for sure what the problem was.
“It came back his kidneys,” Monger said. “Now, he has no function in his left kidney, but only 27% in his right.”
Monger and Martindale met through the Kidneys For Kids Facebook page. Doctors had recommended Monger post on social media about Bradley’s case, but she was nervous about maintaining the family’s privacy.
The Mongers want to find Bradley a donor before he reaches 10% kidney function, at which point he will need to go on dialysis.
Dialysis is a treatment that helps the body function properly with damaged kidneys. Average life expectancy on dialysis is five to 10 years, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Treatments can be lengthy and expensive.
If a person goes on dialysis before receiving a kidney transplant, their body is more likely to reject the kidney, Martindale said.
Monger said doctors are not sure when Bradley will reach 10%, but finding a donor earlier rather than later is important.
Bradley has been hospitalized seven or eight times throughout his life, his mother said. Some of those visits were in response to Bradley’s high creatine levels, which reached double the normal amount for a healthy child.
Bradley was admitted to the hospital three times for severe bladder infections. He regularly gets bloodwork done and ultrasounds for his kidneys.
“He doesn’t have the immune system another child has,” Monger said. “If somebody in school is sick, I don’t take him to school.”
Monger home-schooled Bradley in 2021 because his doctor said his immune system wouldn’t be able to fight COVID-19 if he contracted it.
“If he gets down, it’ll be hard for him to get back out,” Monger said.
Bradley needs a donor with either Type A positive or Type O negative blood type
People often worry about their health deteriorating after donating a kidney, Martindale said, but if a donor has generally good health and two working kidneys, one of those is essentially a spare.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, as long as a person is cleared, donating a kidney does not affect life expectancy.
In fact, a 1997 Swedish study followed kidney donors for 30 years and found that it does not constitute any long-term risk, and the survival rate among the donor group was actually higher than the group living with both kidneys. The study said this was most likely due to the fact that only healthy people are accepted for living kidney donations.
“You can share that spare [kidney] with a person like Bradley and live a perfectly normal life,” Martindale said. “I’m proof of that at 60, almost 10 years after donating.”
In 2011, Martindale tried to donate a kidney to a friend of his, but they were not a match.
Martindale then decided to join the paired donation program. This allowed him to donate his kidney to a stranger and move his friend to the top of the donor list, where he would receive the next kidney that matched his.
In 2012, Martindale made a trip to a local party store for gum in downtown Bay City, Michigan, when his life changed.
Laying on the counter was a newspaper article about a young girl, Jessica Shwerin, who needed a kidney. Two days later, Martindale anonymously called her mom to ask what blood type Jessica was.
They were a match.
Martindale tested at the University of Michigan Transplant Center within two weeks.
“I knew before they knew that I was her perfect match,” he said.
Martindale and Jessica celebrated yearly dinners in the beginning of their friendship, on what they called their “kidney-versary.”
“My wife and I consider her like our stepdaughter, a family member,” Martindale said.
Jessica is 20 now, in perfect health and attending college at Eastern Michigan University, Martindale said. She helps him advocate for other children and is on the board of directors for Kidneys for Kids.
Martindale is on a small advocacy trip right now, raising awareness for Bradley and a 15-month-old on dialysis in Norfolk.
Martindale plans to visit 48 states and 50 cities by the end of 2023, beginning in May. He aims to get 100 children 100 kidney donations.
“Bradley’s going to need a kidney very soon,” Martindale said. “By the time somebody gets through testing and is approved, there’s usually weeks to a couple of months time before they know that they’re a viable donor. So the sooner the better.”
Anyone interested in donating can call Monger at 540-607-8969, or contact Barbara Moore, transplant coordinator assistant with the University of Virginia Medical Center, at 434-243-5610.
Contact Laura Boaggio at 574-6278 or email@example.com