Charlie & Jeff: A Winning Match

The first two years of any child’s life are a whirlwind for parents. But Jeff and Sarah Kuehl had an added challenge with their son, Charlie. Charlie’s kidneys functioned at only 2 percent when he was born at 35 weeks, five weeks early. Doctors drained his bladder and his kidneys were able to work somewhat normally for eight months. But, before he reached his first birthday the Kuehl’s knew Charlie would eventually need a kidney transplant.

Jeff and Sarah rearranged their busy work schedules so that one of them was at Charlie’s side at all times. Meticulously managing his fluid intake and output with precise measurements was vital or else Charlie would run the danger of having a seizure or becoming comatose. Somehow, the family made it through those difficult years. During this time, both parents underwent testing to see whether either of them could be a living kidney donor to Charlie.

While both of his parents were matches, Jeff was a better match, so he was the natural choice as a living donor. “If you look at them, Charlie is Jeff’s little mini-me, so it makes perfect sense,” says Sarah. Jeff and Charlie underwent their surgeries on May 4, 2017.

Today, Charlie is a healthy, active 4-year-old who likes to alarm his parents with death-defying feats at the playground. “The scarier it is for me, the more he likes it,” says Sarah. “He just loves to climb.”

Now that he has a healthy kidney, Charlie has been able to catch up with other children his age to reach those important developmental milestones. He loves running and playing soccer and basketball. Charlie has especially enjoyed trying new foods since his transplant. He couldn’t have foods with potassium when his kidneys were weak and now bananas are his favorite snack!

Jeff says it’s gratifying to see how Charlie has thrived with his kidney transplant. “When he was sick, we were doing everything we could and we were still losing the battle,” Jeff says. “It was nice to finally start winning.”