Dallas, PA resident, Andrew Schukraft, was an active 16 year old when his life was changed forever. He played soccer and tennis from the time he was a child, and had just been named captain of his soccer team. He was always physically active and felt healthy, never thinking that he would be someone with health issues.
He went in for a routine physical and his blood pressure was high. The physician suggested that he go to his family doctor and find out what was causing the issue. After going through testing, he learned that he was in renal failure and his kidneys were only functioning at 5%. He was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy, a kidney disease that occurs when IgA, a protein made by the immune system to protect the body from foreign substances, builds up and damages the kidneys. Doctors told him that he would need a kidney transplant, and he was in shock.
Andrew had only noticed slight changes in his energy levels during this time, but nothing significant enough to cause concern. He said, “I never expected that anything like this could happen to me. I was so upset at first, especially because I knew that I’d probably never play soccer again. I figured out that complaining and being upset wouldn’t help, so I accepted it and decided to move forward.”
Now 17, Andrew’s insight and strength is beyond his years. He continued high school and only missed two classes a week for dialysis. While waiting for a transplant, Andrew was on dialysis three times a week. He suffered from fatigue and some muscle aches, but was positive and relied on the support of his family and friends who knew how to lift his spirits, make him laugh and help take his mind off of his health.
“When I received the call that there was a matching kidney for me, I had a mixture of fear and excitement. I never had surgery before. It all went so quickly and felt like I had blurred vision. I know my donor was a few years older than me, and he was in a car accident.” he said. Andrew is currently in the process of writing to his donor’s family to thank them for his life-saving gift. He said, “I have a lot of gratitude to my donor family. I’m forever thinking about their loss and how they helped me so I can live a better life. I want them to know that their loss wasn’t all for nothing, and that something good came out of something horrible. I’m living my life to the best of my ability and am doing well because of them.”
Andrew was only in the hospital for five days post-transplant and went back to school after just two weeks. Luckily, his transplant happened during his winter break, so he didn’t miss any school. One month post-transplant, he began playing tennis again. He said, “I really pushed myself after the transplant because I wanted to go back to school. I have a lot more energy now and can do whatever I need to. I’m also able to eat whatever I want. After being on a restrictive diet, I came home and ate so much chocolate.”
This is the first Christmas that Andrew will have his new kidney and he’s looking forward to having energy, enjoying time with his cousins and being active. “We usually run around and play tennis.” he said. Andrew is also looking forward to spending the holiday with his family, exchanging gifts and indulging in ham and french toast at his grandmother’s house.
Thanks to the generosity of his life-saving kidney donor, Andrew can look confidently towards his future. He applied to several colleges and is excited to find out where he has been accepted to. Today, he gives back by sharing his story at local high schools and universities – encouraging people to register as organ and tissue donors. He said, “I think a lot of people just aren’t familiar with organ donation. It’s foreign to them, and they may be fearful of the unknown.”
Gift of Life Donor Program has worked tirelessly for the past 42 years to coordinate donors’ generosity with those in need. Since 1974, Gift of Life – the organ procurement organization for the eastern half of PA, southern NJ and DE – has helped save nearly 42,000 lives through organ donation, and enhanced over half a million lives through tissue donation. For more information or to register, visit donors1.org. It only takes 30 seconds to register.