Sixteen-year-old Michaln Wells is listed as a centerfielder on the roster of the Childersburg High School Tigers Baseball Team. But his name can also be found on another important roll – the national organ transplant waiting list.
Michaln had just started ninth grade in 2013 when he was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. When antibiotics did not clear it up, his local pediatrician referred him to Children’s of Alabama, where a pediatric nephrologist determined that Michaln had just 37 percent kidney function and was actually in kidney failure. He was admitted to Children’s so that doctors could monitor him, work out a treatment plan and take a biopsy to learn the cause of his kidney failure.
They soon had a diagnosis: Alport syndrome, a genetic condition characterized by progressive kidney disease, hearing loss and eye abnormalities. Because Michaln is hearing-impaired, his doctors suspected Alport even before the biopsy report confirmed it.
Michaln and his family worked hard to comply with medication schedules and dietary restrictions, and they were able to maintain his kidney function for more than a year. But in January of 2015, he had surgery to remove both kidneys. Since that time, he has relied on dialysis to keep him alive until a kidney becomes available.
“I wasn't expecting my life to go like this, but I believe ‘everything happens for a reason,’ so I guess I have to go with the flow,” Michaln says. “Children’s has been taking good care of me, and my dialysis nurses are like my best friends.”
Michaln and his family also have praise for the new Renal Care Center, which opened in February in the McWane Building. It features bright colors, spacious waiting areas and comfortable seating, as well as an interactive educational and entertainment system for patients.
Michaln, who dreams of playing Major League Baseball one day, spends many of his dialysis hours enjoying ESPN broadcasts. His mother, Crystal Flenord, says she appreciates the spaciousness of the new unit that “gives us a place to visit with Michaln, gives his nurses room to care for him and gives all the patients more privacy during their treatment time.”
The Renal Care Center will be home for Michaln three mornings a week until the day Crystal is praying for arrives: The day her son receives the kidney transplant that will enable him to follow his dreams.