When my little brother AJ was in kindergarten, he would get sick almost every morning with vomiting, headaches and nosebleeds. My mom took him to the doctor’s often and every time they would come home with a new diagnosis, and every time we would hope that we could finally help make him better. One time the doctors said he was allergic to dairy products so he had to eliminate milk, cheese, ice cream and even bananas and French fries, which was very hard for a six-year-old! But even that did not seem to work.
This had been going on for a year and a half and he was still getting sick every morning. So, my parents took him to the doctor again and they did something they had never done: took his blood
pressure. It was so high that he was at risk for having a stroke, which is very unusual for someone his age. They immediately hospitalized him and ran all sorts of tests.
This was when they told us the news that would drastically change our lives - not only did AJ have extremely high blood pressure, but both his kidneys were failing. I remember sitting in the waiting room with my family when the doctors told us what percentage of his kidneys was actually working: only three percent. Then I remember the doctors telling us that AJ would have to start on dialysis that day, or he wouldn’t survive. They explained that the only way for him to lead a normal life was to have a kidney transplant.
For the next six months he was on dialysis and lots of medication: 22 pills in the morning and 19 at night. But he never complained, not once. He knew all of this would make him better, and here I was six years older than him and complaining if I had a scratch.
During that time my family did a lot of praying. Our prayers seemed to be answered when we got the news that my dad was a perfect match to be AJ’s kidney donor. The surgery went great!
Six years later, AJ and my dad are both doing very well. AJ takes two pills in the morning, which doesn’t begin to compare with the 41 he used to take every day. He is back to playing baseball and basketball and the doctors say he will not need another transplant, God willing, for 40 years. They say by the time he does need one, they’ll be able to grow a kidney from his own tissue. Even though he is my little brother, I’ll look up to him more than he’ll ever know!
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.