Girl’s condition continues to improve after transplant, donor released from hospital

Girl’s condition continues to improve after transplant, donor released from hospital

By By Brandon Reid, Assistant Editor

Five-year-old Angela Rushford was able to eat for the first time Jan. 6 after undergoing a kidney transplant last Friday, Jan. 3, while her organ donor, 38-year-old David Harper, was released from the University of Wisconsin at Madison Medical Center.

“She’s doing great [and] they’re going to finally let her eat today,” said Tony Rushford, Angela’s father, on Jan. 6. “It’s just unbelievable; everything’s doing great.”

Angela was awake and coloring in her hospital room as a nurse took her blood pressure.

“You should look at her,” Patty Rushford, Angela’s mother, said. “She’s sitting up, she has no pain at all. I’m so happy.”

Angela had both of her kidneys removed to make room for Harper’s kidney.

Harper, of Mount Morris, became the donor after responding to a free classified ad placed by the Rushfords in The Rock River Times. Harper had never read the paper before the day he read the classified.

Angela suffered from polycystic renal failure, a hereditary disease in which cysts form in the kidneys, eventually leading to kidney failure. The only treatments for the disease are daily permanent dialysis or transplant.

Doctors have said such a transplant is a somewhat unusual operation, especially for someone as young as Angela.

Symptoms of polycystic renal failure include blood in urine, kidney stones, enlarged waistlines, pain in the back, abdomen or side, and high blood pressure.

Patty Rushford said Angela had suffered from high blood pressure and that Angela was taking a number of prescription medications in attempts to lower it. Her blood pressure Jan. 6 was 130 over 63, which doctors said is a little high under normal circumstances for someone her age but what is expected considering her operation. Her blood pressure was “perfect” when she first came out of surgery, Patty Rushford said.

Doctors expect Angela’s blood pressure to even out and return to normal as her body adjusts to the kidney, although they believe a higher blood pressure might be better at the moment so her body doesn’t go into shock.

“It’s not what it’s going to be when it’s all done because it’s so used to being in a man’s body,” Patty Rushford said. “Not even with medicine, it should do it by itself.”

For a time, the Rushfords feared Tony might also suffer from polycystic kidney disease as he has high blood pressure. But tests concluded that he does not have the disease.

“I was scared because I thought he had it too,” Patty Rushford said.

The Rushfords’ other two children–Justin, 6, and Tascha, 20 months–will be closely monitored for the disease, the Rushfords said.

Despite being a perfect match to his daughter’s type O positive blood, Tony was unable to give his kidney to Angela because of his high blood pressure.

Angela is expected to be in the hospital for another three to five days while she recovers. Her hospital telephone has been ringing off the hook with calls from well-wishers and members of the media. The Rushfords’ story has been featured on NBC’s Today show, the CBS Evening News, CBS International Radio News Network, and WGN, WBBM-AM radio and WMAQ-AM radio in Chicago.

A combination of the national attention and the nerves of having her daughter in surgery has left the Rushfords without sleep and physically and mentally drained.

“I’m so tired that I can’t think,” Patty Rushford said.

Despite their exhaustion, the Rushfords are considering starting a national foundation for organ donation. Details have yet to be determined, although Tony Rushford said he just wants to help open people’s eyes to the idea of organ donation.

A fund has been created in Angela’s name to help cover the mounting costs of her surgery and medication. Contributions can be sent to the following: Angela Rushford Fund, c/o National City Bank, 120 W. State St. #1, Rockford, IL 61101.

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