Ben Pratt was born at Mary Breckenridge Hospital in Hyden three years ago, and from his first breath his life hasn’t been an easy one. As soon as he was born doctors realized that something was wrong, and quickly transferred him to the medical center at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
“They sent him to UK because he was having trouble breathing, and they had noticed his lung was collapsed,” said Shayla Pratt, Ben’s mother and a former dialysis nurse. “Once he got there they realized he was in kidney failure.”
Ben, who lives with his parents and sister here in Perry County, stayed for over four months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at UK. He was cared for in part by Beth Warren, his primary nurse who would became more than a caregiver for young Ben; she would become a lifeline.
“We just got to know her really well,” said Shayla. “After he was discharged she came to all of his birthday parties and always kept in touch with us.”
Ben is now three years old and had spent the last three years undergoing dialysis treatments. His family knew he was going to need a kidney transplant, and as his kidney failure continued to progress they also knew it would be sooner rather than later. Five different family members and close friends were all tested to see if they would be a good candidate for a transplant, but none of them were.
Finally, Shayla received a call that changed her son’s life as Warren offered to donate one of her own kidneys. “She called me one day and said he has my blood type, I have known this from the start,” she said.
Warren was tested and indeed found to be a match and a good candidate for the transplant. The surgery was performed on Nov. 20 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Both Ben and Beth made it through the surgery well, and within less than 24 hours Ben showed vast improvement.
“He had never had normal labs ever until the night after his surgery,” Shayla said. “It wasn’t even a full 24 hours and his labs were normal.”
Before the surgery, Ben was not allowed to eat many foods and remained on dialysis for 12 hours a day. Shayla said without the surgery he would have never had the chance at a normal childhood. Less than a month after, however, he is eating new foods and growing, gaining three pounds so far. For the first time in his young life he is able to live without dialysis.
“I know God put Ben and the Pratt family in my life for a reason, from the first day I took care of him as his nurse in the NICU,” Warren said. “What a gift he has given all of us and to watch him grow and play like all children should, without the worry of daily dialysis is so humbling. I am extremely blessed that God gave me such an amazing opportunity.”
Transplant surgery is a difficult and risky surgery for both the donor and the recipient, but Shayla said she is incredibly thankful that Warren was willing to take that risk. “He is my child, it was a no-brainer for me (to try to donate), but for somebody we didn’t even know before he was born, I can’t imagine doing something so selfless.”
As for Warren, she said there were many reasons why she did it, but ultimately her decision came down to one little boy, and her desire to see him have a chance at a better life.
“There are a lot of reasons why I decided to be evaluated and subsequently Ben’s kidney donor,” she explained. “The main reason, however, was the overwhelming feeling of wanting to see Ben have the life that he deserved. Ben is an amazing little boy as well as the Pratt family. This was, without a doubt, God’s plan for all of us. Being Ben’s kidney donor has been such an amazing journey. “
Shayla added that she wanted to say thank you to her son’s donor, but words could not adequately express her gratitude. She also wanted to urge people to consider organ donation themselves. “Most of the time people think of adults,” she said, but added that adults can donate to children as well, and her son is living proof.
“We’ll be eternally grateful for Beth’s selfless generosity,” Shayla added. “She has given our little boy a chance at a normal childhood and a chance at life. There is no greater gift.”