The Ambassador: Following Two Kidney Transplant, Patient Hopes His Story Will Inspire
By Cheryl Clark
Looking at Trea, you would never know he’s confronted multiple diagnoses and endured numerous medical procedures and even transplants. Or how on two different occasion that doctors told his mom that he narrowly dodged death on two different occasions.
But now he’s ready to share his story, his 17-year medical journey, with the community as a Cook Children’s Patient Ambassador.
With his new responsibility came a professional photo shoot. Asked to bring clothes and props that highlighted his personality, Trea took his photos in reflective sunglasses, a black felt hat, leather jacket and high top sneakers. It all fit him perfectly and reflected a creative, confident teenager. Yet the accessory that out-shownall of that was his smile. It’s obvious his focus is on his future, not his past.
However, to truly understand who Trea is now, we have to look back.
Trea was born with a bladder output obstruction, which in turn, damaged his kidneys. Around this same time, Trea experienced a seizure and was admitted to Cook Children’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). Had his family not brought him in when they did, Trea may not have survived.
Doctors diagnosed Trea with end-stage renal failure and he immediately began peritoneal dialysis at home. Peritoneal dialysis helps remove waste products from the blood when the kidneys can't adequately do the job. Trea did this for one year before beginning hemodialysis, another form of dialysis dialysis in which a machine filters wastes, salts and fluid from the blood.
This new form of dialysis was more intense and Trea did not tolerate it well. After experiencing a few seizures, Trea’s family learned he would need a kidney transplant as soon as possible. Luckily, Trea’s mom was a perfect match.
In 2005, at 2 1/2 years old, Trea underwent his first kidney transplant. That kidney lasted for just over a decade.
“We were basically free and clear to be a normal kid during that time,” said Krystal Tennyson, Trea’s mom. “We came back and forth for doctors' appointments and various different treatments, but for the most part, he was a healthy kid.”
In 2014, Trea’s levels started elevating and on New Year’s Eve, he began several different treatments to save his kidney. In September 2015, Trea was diagnosed a second time with end-stage renal failure. Trea went back on peritoneal dialysis for six months, but found himself back in the hospital with high potassium levels.
Just before he was to be released, doctors discovered fluid around his heart and sent him to the PICU. Once again, his family was told that if Trea had gone home as they had planned, he may not be here today.
Unfortunately, continuous dialysis was not working for Trea. The medical staff tried to drain the fluid around his heart because they didn’t want to put him through surgery. They ended up doing a local anesthetic at the bedside. They put in a catheter and removed some of the fluid from around his heart and when they felt he was stable enough. That’s when things finally started to come together. From then on, he went back to hemodialysis three times a week.
Trea was on dialysis for two years before he was placed on the kidney transplant list in March 2017. His family got a call within just three months, letting them know that Trea was No. 8 on the list. Three days later, he moved to No. 1.
About 90 minutes after learning they had a perfect match, Trea was in surgery and undergoing his second kidney transplant. Two years and only a few minor hiccups later, Trea is doing great.
He is a healthy teenager boy and attending high school. He recently got his first job and has dreams of becoming an aerospace engineer. And while he won’t be attending his senior year in person due to the pandemic, having recently received his letterman’s jacket for academics, his dream is well within reach.
“If it wasn’t for this medical center and the people in it, I don’t think we could have made it with everything we have been through,” said Krystal. “This is a hospital that really cares about families and patients. They really dedicate all of their time and resources to make sure that patients get the best care possible. I encourage people to give back any way they can, whether it’s a dollar or toys. Just whatever they can give. We always need more.”
To find out how you can support kids like Trea, click here.
What is a kidney transplant?
If you've been told your child will need a renal, or kidney, transplant, just thinking about the months ahead may fill you with dread and worry. Fortunately, for complicated renal illnesses and surgeries, there's Cook Children's Renal Transplant program, one of only a few certified pediatric transplant centers in Texas.
Kidneys are vital to a person's survival because they filter waste, as well as extra fluid and salt, from the body. If the kidneys fail (stop working), a person will need to go on dialysis or get a kidney transplant.
A kidney transplant is an operation where doctors put a new kidney in the body of someone whose own kidneys no longer work properly. One healthy kidney can do the work of two failed kidneys.
Because people can survive with just one kidney, a living person can give one of his or her healthy kidneys to someone with kidney failure. A kidney can also come from an organ donor who is recently deceased. Click here to learn more.