LEWISVILLE — When she was 5 months old, Avalee Byrd was diagnosed with Wilms’ tumors. Her kidneys were removed and she has been dialysis-dependent since she was 9 months old
Now 4, Avalee is about a month away from receiving a kidney donated to her by her father, Jeremy Byrd.
“I’m pretty sure they heard my whoop of joy in Austin,” Jeremy said. “I’m excited and terrified in equal measure.”
Wilms’ tumor is a childhood cancer that starts in the kidneys. Nine out of 10 kidney cancers in children are Wilms’ tumors, according to the American Cancer Society.
“[We’re] very excited that Jeremy can donate to her,” said Avalee’s mother, Stacy Byrd. “A living donor does better than a deceased donor — it lasts longer — so we’re very excited that it could be family.”
Currently, Avalee receives dialysis from Daisy, her at-home dialysis machine, every night for 12 hours.
“There’s a book called Hannah Has Dialysis and they name the dialysis machine Daisy and so she named it Daisy,” Stacy said. “And when she’s on hemo — that’s a bigger dialysis machine at the hospital — that was her older cousin Camille.”
Avalee was approved for transplant surgery at the end of November, but it wasn’t until May that Jeremy was approved to be a donor. The surgery is now scheduled near the end of August.
“She’s probably going to be in the hospital [for] about two weeks, he’s probably going to be in the hospital about three days,” Stacy said about what comes after the surgery. “She’ll be in ICU for two days is what I was told, while they watch to make sure everything is working OK.”
During the first six months after the surgery, the Byrd family will not be able to travel anywhere farther than four hours from the transplant center.
“She’ll have a lot of testing to make sure that the immune-suppressing drugs are working correctly and they have the right dosage,” Stacy said.
Through a page on the Children’s Organ Transplant Association at https://bit.ly/2Mc5F5Q, the family has raised a little over $7,700 to help pay for Avalee and her father’s upcoming surgeries. Stacy said she believes the money in the account right now will get them through both surgeries.
“It can last for her lifetime so that’s the good thing about if we got more than [that],” Stacy said. “It’ll pay for her premiums, it’ll pay for over-the-counter drugs, things not covered by insurance; it’ll pay for upcoming transplants when there are some, and so it’ll help her out a lot in the long run.”
The family will also benefit from a garage sale this weekend in Argyle, which they’ve advertised about both on the COTA page and on Avalee’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/avaleesavengers.
In the long run, Stacy said that the kidney Avalee receives from her father will last only 15 to 20 years.
“But we’re hoping that [when] she needs another kidney later, that it’s bionic or something improved so she hopefully doesn’t have to take the immune-suppressing drugs,” Stacy said.
For now though, the Byrds are counting down the days until Avalee’s surgery in August.
“I’m getting Daddy’s kidney,” Avalee said.