A 2-year-old child, who fought off two severe rejections of a recently transplanted kidney, died Sunday when he could not resist a lung infection.
Doctors said drugs given the boy, whose name is Elbert, to stave off rejections of the transplanted kidney weakened his resistance and made him vulnerable to several infections. He contracted meningitis and the fatal lung infection.
Elbert received his transplanted kidney Feb. 23 after doctors determined he was suffering from congenital kidney disease and would not survive more than a year without a transplant.
Both of Elbert's parents proved unable to donate a kidney and so he was forced to rely on an accident victim's kidney flown in from North Carolina. Organs donated from someone other than a relative face a greater chance of rejection, doctors explained.
Zoe Papadopoulou-Coulombis, director of the pediatric hemodialysis unit at Georgetown University hospital said rejection of a transplanted organ is expected, but Elbert's rejections were so severe the kidney quit functioning. The drugs, however, caused the kidney to "open" up again and begin working, she said. Since he was so young, however, he could not shake the infections, she said.
But Earl Nelson, who had been Elbert's Fairfax County-appointed foster father for a year, said the child just could not take anyone.
"I believe deep in my heart that he just gave up," he said. He quickly added that the boy had been a good patient and had "never fought any type of medication or probing on his body."
Nelson and his wife Irean took custody of ELbert after he had been in the hospital and doctors realized he had a kidney problem. Even with Elbert's problems, Nelson said keeping "your baby" was a privilege and a pleasure.
But the Nelsons never adopted the boy and he was legally a ward of Fairfax. Nelson said the austere funeral arrangements for county wards were a "cruelty Elbert didn't deserve," so he paid to have the child buried in a private lot.