Twelve-year-old Sierra Reynolds with her dog Nelly, who is also 12, exchange a kiss at their Altona home. Sierra is in dire need of a kidney transplant. See page 2 inside for the entire story.
Sierra Reynolds just wants to be like every other kid in her grade...she wants to be healthy.
Sierra is 12, and for 10 long years of her short life, being healthy has just been a dream. When Sierra was just 2 she contracted Ecoli 157. Her parents don’t know where she was exposed to the most virulent form of the deadly bacteria, but she nearly died on the way to the hospital.
In fact, Sierra coded in the ambulance on the way to Fletcher Allen Health Center in Burlington. During emergency exploratory surgery that night, three quarters of her intestines were removed. She fought for her life for four months before finally pulling through enough to leave the hospital, but life on the other side has been almost as difficult.
The Ecoli that nearly killed Sierra left her with Cerebral Palsy and Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. She has undergone numerous reconstructive surgeries on her feet just so she can walk. She has had her left ovary removed, and has had several more intestinal surgeries. On a good week, she travels to Fletcher Allen at least once for doctors’ appointments, but typically she travels to see doctors two or three times a week or more.
Through it all, she just tries to be a normal kid.
“Sierra lives her life every day knowing she’s very sick, but instead of focusing on that, her drive in life is to be like her friends and know that there’s a future for her to conquer,” said her mother, Kathy Reynolds.
Kathy is forced to take time off from her work, and Sierra from school, for the usually day long trips to Burlington. She is fortunate that her employer lets her make up the lost time, but the strain is apparent, even through her smile.
What causes Kathy the most angst currently are Sierra’s kidneys. They are shutting down. She is down to 10 - 15 percent of their capacity.
Sierra is on the organ donor list, but her parents are hoping that a live donor will come forward. Both of Sierra’s parents have been tested and they are not able to donate.
Statistics show that transplants from live donors have a much longer lifespan than from a deceased donor, according to Kathy. Being only 12, Sierra’s parents feel that her best hope for the long, normal life she craves, is to find a live donor willing to donate a kidney.
“We’re the type of people that we don’t ask anything of anybody,” said Kathy. “We feel very uncomfortable and awkward.
“Our goal is also to raise awareness for the need of organs for many sick adults and children.”
Sierra’s doctors are putting off dialysis as long as possible, hoping that she will find a donor first. Dialysis would take a greater toll on her young body, and could cause her to be too sick to except a kidney transplant if one is found. Dialysis would also mean more doctor’s appointments each week.
Sierra is shy around strangers, including reporters, but around her friends it’s a different story. She’s outgoing, strong-willed and independent.
She’s now of an age where she understands how much different her life has been than her friends’ lives. It’s hard for her to know that she’s sick, but it doesn’t keep her down. She’s planning that in the future, when she’s well, she will go into the medical field. She also hopes to adopt children some day.
“With her illness, she doesn’t like a pity party. If something knocks her down she’ll feel the hurt, but instead of staying low, she accepts it and comes back fighting harder than before,” Kathy said.
Anyone interested in learning more about being tested as a possible donor can call Kathy at 236-5960.