Peruvian boy receives life-saving surgery in Palo Alto

May 12, 2011 6:52:40 PM PDT
A 4-year-old boy and his parents made a 4,000 mile trip from Lima, Peru to Palo Alto for a surgery that would save the boy's life. The little boy was born with a rare and deadly kidney disorder and needed a transplant. The donor turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Julian Uceda-Valdez recently had one of his last checkups at Lucile Packard Children's hospital at Stanford. He and his parents will soon return to their native Peru after Julian underwent a kidney transplant two months ago.

Julian was born with a rare disorder.

"The kidney serves as a coffee filter and one of the things the kidney is supposed to hold on to, like the coffee grounds in the coffee filter, are the proteins," Dr. Paul Grimm said. "You need proteins to grow and thrive, but his kidney, the filter, had holes in it and so he leaked proteins."

When his parents found out Julian suffered from this rare kidney disorder, they immediately knew what they were up against. Eight years ago they had lost another son to the same disorder.

"The doctors told us they wanted to take some samples to see if something was related to his older brother because he was losing protein," Julian's father, Ricardo Uceda, said.

At the same time, his mother's cousin, a pediatrician in Northern California, was researching the disorder and recommended bringing Julian to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

But there was more.

"She came with us and she surprised us with the news because she told us that she had talked to her husband, her kids and had decided to be the donor," Uceda,said.

The cousin, Dr. Lourdes Valdez, was a perfect match.

The March operation was a success, giving the Ucedas a second chance to be parents.

"Now he can eat whatever he wants, drink whatever he wants; he can have a normal life, my cousin gave him a chance to live," Julian's mother, Marita Uceda-Valdez, said.

Julian still has trouble holding his head up. Because he was protein-deprived, he was malnourished and that has caused a delay in the development of his gross motor skills.

He has got a lot of work ahead of him.

"He will need lifetime medication and life time follow-up and he will get the majority of that in Peru but we will be following him as well," transplant coordinator Gerri James said.

Family members in Peru and friends from around the world began a fundraiser to help with the costs of the operation and the trip.

Giving up was never an option.

"We want him to know that other people, not only in our country but around the world have done for him so that he can do that for other people," Ricardo Uceda said.

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