By Shelley Widhalm
Reporter-Herald Staff Writer
POSTED: 08/02/2014 11:05:05 AM MDT
Jacob Whitler, 16, takes his dog named Buddy for a walk Friday morning near his home in Loveland. Whitler had a kidney transplant a month ago with his mother, Lisa Whitler, as the donor. (Steve Stoner / Loveland Reporter-Herald)
Lisa Whitler talks about the surgeries that she and her 16-year-old son, Jacob, underwent recently when she donated a kidney to Jacob. (Steve Stoner / Loveland Reporter-Herald)
If you go
What: Fundraising event in honor of Jacob Whitler.
When: Thursday, Aug. 7.
Where: Texas Roadhouse, 4633 S. Timberline Road, Fort Collins.
Benefit: 20 percent of sales will be donated, a flier advertising the event is required; go to http://cotaforjacobw.com/node/315.
• Sept. 13, Mums sale, preorder perennial flowers and pick them up at the Foundations Church parking lot, 1380 Denver Ave.
• Oct. 19, Bowling tournament, Sweetheart Lanes, 2320 N. Lincoln Ave., Loveland. RSVP by Oct. 5.
To make a donation: Mail it to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, 2501 W. COTA Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403, or online at COTAforJacobW.com. Checks or money orders should be made payable to COTA with “In Honor of Jacob W” written on the memo line of the check.
Sixteen-year-old Jacob Whitler said about his mother, Lisa, “All I can do is thank her and kiss her feet.”
Lisa donated one of her kidneys to Jacob, who was diagnosed with kidney failure as a baby and got corrective surgery but late last year started experiencing declining kidney function.
“I wanted to give him a new life. I wanted to give him the best chance at the most normal life possible,” said Lisa, a Loveland resident, about her son, who will be a junior at Mountain View High School.
Knowing how high the associated expenses are with a kidney transplant, Lisa’s friends organized a fundraising account on Jacob’s behalf through the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, a Bloomington, Ind.-based nonprofit focused on offsetting transplant-related expenses.
Donations are made to COTA on the patient’s behalf and used to cover expenses such as travel and hotel costs, co-payments and anti-rejection medications that are not covered by health insurance.
Family friend Karen Klein wanted to help Jacob and Lisa, who is a single mother of two children, so she agreed to do the publicity for the fundraising efforts.
“Some people you meet and you just have a connection,” Karen said. “You have a friendship, and you love each other.”
Jacob said when he hears Karen’s name, “I just get happy.”
“Karen’s been a second mother to me for lots of years. She’s always been there for me and my family,” he said.
The COTA fundraiser on Jacob’s behalf is for $45,000 and, with the help of several community members who did their own fundraisers, the effort has raised $14,000 so far. The fundraising, initiated June 1 to continue through May 31, 2015, has included portions of restaurant sales, a jewelry party, a card-making class and a bake sale.
“It’s just amazing that people we know and people we don’t know have stepped up and embraced his cause,” Lisa said.
Jacob was born with hydronephrosis with grade five reflux, or swelling of the kidneys with reverse flow of urine through the ureters that damaged both of his kidneys. When he was 2 days old, blood tests showed that his kidneys were failing, and the next day he had emergency surgery at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Hospital in Denver to replant the ureters, correcting the reflux issue.
For several years, Jacob had stable kidney function, but at a routine appointment when he was 10 years old, he was found to have decreased kidney function. He was prescribed six new medications, had to follow a strict new diet and was scheduled for numerous tests.
By the time he was 15, Jacob’s kidney function started declining again, and he was given the option of dialysis or a transplant.
Lisa did the required testing in late February and found that she was a match for Jacob and donated her kidney to him. They had the surgeries June 25, his at The Children’s Hospital and hers at University Hospital.
“It was from start to finish such an amazing process,” Lisa said. “We had people praying alongside us. Our prayers were answered.”
Following surgery, Jacob, who had been experiencing tiredness and difficulty in concentrating, started feeling energetic again, he said. He will have to wait until he’s fully recovered to return to martial arts, something he’s done for three years. He’s also involved in school theater and likes reading, archery and playing video games, he said.
“I just have a lot more energy. I don’t feel any symptoms or anything,” Jacob said.
Lisa, as the donor, felt some tiredness after surgery but is now recovered, she said.
“As a mother, I would give anything for my children,” Lisa said. “This is a gift I could give. It’s giving him new life.”
Contact Reporter-Herald Staff Writer Shelley Widhalm at 970-669-5050 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at twitter.com/ShelleyWidhalm.