Search for hope

July 1, 1993

Craig Springer has the kidneys of a 70-year-old man—they’re small, shrunken and weakened. He takes a daily smorgasbord of medication, including three for his blood pressure and one for his weakened heart. He has to keep a constant eye on his blood pressure—some days it’s high, some days it’s low.

“It’s hard for him…he can’t eat whatever he wants and when he goes walking, he has to watch his blood pressure,” said Judy Springer, Craig’s mother. “But there’s days when his blood pressure drops really low, and sometimes it’s like this big balancing game with sodium and sugar to raise or lower his blood pressure.”

Craig, 15, was diagnosed with End-Stage Renal Failure (ESRF) Jan. 21 at SwedishAmerican Hospital in Rockford. He was lifelined to the University of Wisconsin Hospital at Madison for emergency surgery and hemodialysis. He had lost 30 pounds and was told he would need a kidney transplant as soon as possible.

“My son woke up one morning and went to school healthy and then came home and went to the emergency room and two hours later he was lifelined to Madison and diagnosed with End-Stage Renal Failure,” Judy Springer said. “In that short period of time, my life got turned upside-down.”

Craig now spends a total of nine and a half hours per week spread out over three days undergoing dialysis, which is the process of removing blood from the body, purifying it, adding vital substances to it and returning it to the vein. His parents have also taken him out of East High School to home-school him.

Craig joined a list of more than 50,000 people in the United States on a list for a kidney transplant. About 14,000 of those on the list will receive a transplant within the next year while about 6,000 will die waiting for a transplant that never comes.

The Springers met Patty and Tony Rushford, parents of 5-year-old Angela Rushford, who underwent a successful kidney transplant Jan. 3 after finding a donor through a free classified ad in The Rock River Times. Patty Rushford suggested the Springers place a free ad in The Rock River Times for a kidney for their son. “She knew what we were going through, she really knew,” Judy Springer said of Patty Rushford.

The Springers placed a free classified ad in the May 14-20 issue of The Rock River Times and it has been running every week since. The ad reads: “15-YEAR-OLD BOY is in need of a kidney transplant. Has type O blood. If you’d like to help him, please call 226-9781. All medical expenses covered.”

Judy Springer said she has received many responses to the ad, although none have been a match. Craig’s body would accept any type of O blood, whether positive or negative. The Springers’ ad is the third ad to appear in The Rock River Times’ “Organ, Tissue & Blood Donation” section of the classified ads since that section was created in January.

2003 has been a tough year for the Springers. Craig was diagnosed with ESRF in January, Judy’s brother suffered a heart attack, and her mother suffered a stroke on Mother’s Day.

“You just sit there and think to yourself, why?” Judy Springer said. “And everything, I mean since Jan. 1, all at once. It just gets to be too much.”

Things with Craig’s diagnosis have been made more difficult by an insurance policy Judy Springer said requires them to get a second surgical opinion for everything. She said the insurance company has asked the Springers to take Craig to Northwestern to get a second opinion from a surgeon. Yet, as Judy Springer said, nephrologists make the diagnosis while surgeons conduct the surgery.

“They don’t make the diagnosis, so I don’t see what good it will do,” Judy Springer said. “I don’t know how many people really read the small print in their policy.

“The whole thing has been frustrating … not one thing has been easy,” Judy Springer said. “And then everything else in life that you have to deal with makes it that much harder.”

Craig originally had tubes in his chest through which he received his dialysis treatments. Yet, over the course of three weeks, he had three surgeries to replace the tubes. He now has a fistula in his arm, and the tubes have been removed, making things easier for him.

“He’s happier now that he doesn’t have tubes hanging out of his chest,” Judy Springer said. “He likes to swim. He got the fistula so he can go in the pool.

“He’s doing pretty good right now,” she added. “He’s healthier and stronger than he has been in a long time. He’s a pretty strong kid, and he’s been hanging in there. I think Mom and Dad have cried more than he has.”

To contact the Springers about donation, call 226-9781.

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