Wake Forest Baptist Research Shows Positive Outcomes for Kidney Transplants in Children with Intellectual Disabilities

May 10, 2017

From the time he was born, Dylan Hill has faced an uphill battle. Born with multiple medical conditions, he had trouble breathing on his own, which caused brain damage. In addition, he was put on dialysis when he was just a month old.

Shortly before he turned 2 – after Randolph County resident Donna Hill and her husband offered to adopt him – he received a kidney transplant at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Now 11, Dylan is able to eat, talk and walk, and is testing above his grade level in some subjects.

According to a recent study published in the journal PediatricTransplantation, organ transplants in intellectually disabled (ID) people is controversial.

Ashton Chen, D.O., associate professor of pediatrics at Brenner Children’s Hospital, the pediatric arm of Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study, said people with ID are often denied an organ transplant because some transplant centers feel that these patients cannot follow a strict post-transplant medical regimen, which often includes complex treatments to prevent rejection.

“This really breaks my heart. These children may not be what we think of as ‘normal’, but they deserve as normal a life as possible,” Donna Hill said. “Dylan has given me more understanding about what life is all about than any other person on this earth. Why not give children like Dylan a chance to live?”

However, in the study, Wake Forest Baptist researchers conducted a review of all 72 children who received kidney transplants at the Medical Center during a 10-year period and found that children with ID can have similar outcomes as non-disabled children. They concluded that if an adequate support network of committed family members and caregivers is available, children with ID should be considered as transplant candidates.

“While this remains a controversial issue, it is important that we be fair and equitable to all patients,” Chen said. “I believe that children with disabilities deserve equal consideration for transplants and access to life-saving medical treatments. It’s my hope that this study encourages more discussion about this topic.”

As for Dylan, he continues to make progress – he enjoys reading on his iPad, playing Miracle League baseball and spending time with his family – all thanks to doctors and loved ones who gave him a fighting chance.

Media Relations

Joe McCloskey: jmcclosk@wakehealth.edu, 336-716-1273

Eryn Johnson: eryjohns@wakehealth.edu, 336-713-8228