Feature Story
Sawyer Dykman recently celebrated his third birthday, a milestone made possible by the kidney transplant he received when he was 16 months old. During a routine sonogram to determine the sex of their baby, Sawyer’s parents Ashley and Matt Dykman, discovered that their son showed symptoms of Prune Belly Syndrome.

Prune Belly Syndrome is a disorder which affects mostly males, characterized by a lack of abdominal muscles and urinary tract malformations. The developing baby's abdomen swells with fluid that disappears after birth, leaving a wrinkled abdomen that looks like a prune. “The bladder fills up and gets very large and that causes the urinary system to back up, which damages everything. Most babies born with Prune Belly end up having to have a kidney transplant,” said Ashley Dykman. To help minimize further damage to Sawyer’s kidneys before birth, doctors performed in-utero surgery to insert a shunt to help drain his bladder.

Sawyer was born in Jackson, Miss. and then transported to Children’s of Alabama. “When he was born, they knew his kidneys were not working. The hospitals here weren’t equipped to do dialysis in babies, so they flew him to Children’s,” Dykman said. Sawyer remained in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s for four months, on dialysis for much of that time. When they returned to Mississippi, Sawyer’s parents continued his daily dialysis at home until he could have a kidney transplant.

“We were just waiting until he reached 22 pounds which is about the weight and size they can put an adult kidney in a child. My husband and I were both tested to see if we could be donors and we were both a match,” Dykman said. When he reached his goal weight, Sawyer received a kidney donated by his dad, Matt.

Since his kidney transplant, Sawyer has been admitted to Children’s several times to deal with urinary tract complications; however, his transplanted kidney is working well. “The kidney is fabulous, but because his urinary system was so damaged, he had trouble getting the urine out of his body,” Dykman said.

Even though Birmingham is four hours from their home, the Dykmans are happy to make the drive to Children’s of Alabama because of the care and support they receive. “When Sawyer was in NICU, it was very overwhelming, but we had the best nurses. We wanted to be as involved as possible. They would help us understand what they were doing and that it’s not as scary as it sounds. They explained it to us in layman’s terms and we were able to explain it to the rest of our family,” Dykman said.

“The dialysis team trained us so well and made sure we knew what we were doing before they sent us home and because of that Sawyer had no complications with dialysis at home. Then at 16 months we had to turn around and become experts at the things that go along with a kidney transplant. We just wouldn’t have known what to do and we are so thankful,” she said.