Giovanni Santos Gets New Kidney Through Paired Donor Program

Finds Compatible Donors Across The Country
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Marc Pickard
Giovanni Santos was out of options.
The nine year old Buford, Georgia boy had already received a kidney from his grandmother… which was now failing.
And though his mother and father qualified as donors, cruel circumstances prevented Giovanni from getting kidneys from them.
All looked bleak, until the Santos family was told about a new donor program that could save Giovanni’s life.

Giovanni Santos was going to Children’s Healthcare at Egleston, one more time.
His last trip there ended in disappointment.

“We felt like we were doing all the right things” said Giovanni’s father Peterson, “but at that point we felt like there wasn’t any…any other resolution available at that time. And all of our cards were played.”

His kidneys failing, Giovanni’s prospects were dismal.

“He had antibodies against about ninety nine percent of the population” explained Dr. Chris Larsen, director of Emory hospital’s transplant center. “So we were looking at a really difficult situation to find him a donor.”

But doctor Larsen was aware of a new program that could find potential kidney donors anywhere in America.

“We worked with a center in Texas” Dr. Larsen said, “who had the same situation but their donor was actually a match for Giovanni. And Michelle turned out to be a match for their recipient.”

Giovanni’s mother Michelle donated her kidney to a recipient in Texas. Someone in that family donated a kidney to Giovanni.

Michelle has recovered from her surgery.
She remembers the first time she saw her son, last week, after both their operations.

“it was just a great moment” recalled Michelle Santos, “because I knew I was going to see a healthy little boy.”

Throughout the day, hospital staff came by to make sure that Giovanni could go home.

“We’re just ecstatic” said Peterson Santos. “We’re very pleased and happy. And it’s a great way for us to start two thousand ten.”

Giovanni is anxious to go home for more than the obvious reasons…there’s his dialysis machine.

“I’m going to ask my dad if I can get a hammer” a mischievous Giovanni said. “I’m going to get a hammer and (smash it) …because I’m tired of that.”

Because of this special…and new…donor program… As many as two thousand people, who might otherwise be waiting for a kidney, could now get one.

“Someone driving in to see their doctor in Texas” Dr. Larsen said, “the last thing in their mind is that they’re going to be able to be helped by a family in Atlanta to share their kidney. And likewise, they’re going to be able to help a young child.”

Giovanni Santos will still have to make regular visits to children’s healthcare of Atlanta…and will take medication for years to come.
But he can spend more time with his friends…and soon he’ll play soccer again.

Giovanni is going home…with a health kidney…two days before his tenth birthday.

He was asked how important it was going to be, to be at his birthday with a healthy kidney.
“A lot” he said. “I finally got my kidney. And this is a good birthday gift.”

But before his birthday…Giovanni has some business to attend to…something about a dialysis machine.

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