Griffith boy receives long-awaited kidney

By Vanessa Renderman


GRIFFITH | The nearly lifelong wait for a kidney has ended for a 9-year-old Griffith boy.

On Thursday, on what the National Kidney Foundation deems World Kidney Day, doctors at the University of Chicago gave Blake Loudenber the organ he needs.

His family was shocked to learn late Tuesday a possible match was available from someone who had just died.

"They said it was coming from far away, and we didn't find it was a total match until 7:30 Thursday morning," said Kelly Ray, Blake's aunt.

The surgery started about 10 a.m. and lasted nine hours after complications arose. Ray said Thursday evening that doctors were moderately happy with the results from the surgery.

Blake was sleeping after getting out of surgery because of the heavy dosage of anesthesia.

As happy and relieved as the family is, there is a sense of uncertainty and anxiety with the new kidney.

"I think he'll be happy, but I think he's going to be scared, because he doesn't know life without his machine," Ray said.

Blake spent 11 hours a night hooked to a peritoneal dialysis machine at home. The third-grader at Beiriger Elementary School in Griffith was born with polycystic kidney disease.

He was put on dialysis at 3 weeks old after doctors did not think he would survive three days. He had a kidney transplant at 2, but his body rejected it.

Blake was prescribed growth hormone injections when it became clear he was not growing at the usual rate, but his body had severe reactions. His growth is stunted.

The campaign to find a kidney for Blake spread through social media and word-of-mouth in Northwest Indiana.

"We just can't believe the support from the community and the school, just everybody," Ray said.

Angela Vujko, family friend and advocate who has been leading the awareness campaign, said messages have flooded the Facebook page set up in support of Blake.

"Everybody's trying to be as supportive as possible," she said.

There is a chance Blake's body will reject the kidney. If so, he will not be in line for another transplant, she said.

Ray said it could take a week to a month for doctors to know how Blake's body reacted to the transplant.

"We do have high hopes," Ray said.

Students in Lynn Lukmann's third-grade class at Beiriger Elementary School in Griffith wear green ribbons and pose outside the school in support of classmate Blake Loudenber, who underwent a kidney transplant Thursday.