Grandmother Sacrifices to Save 5-Year-Old Grandson

By Marc Pickard @ 11 Alive

ATLANTA -- At Emory Hospital, Marlene Valentine was preparing to have one of her kidneys removed. At Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, a five-year-old named Andrew was being prepped to receive that kidney -- from his grandmother.

Andrew, 5, had already faced a lot of hardships in his life; his 20-week ultrasound revealed an abnormality -- a tumor that covered most of his body, as well as problems with his kidneys.

"The doctor that we saw first told us there was no chance of him living," said Andrew's mother Jenni. But a second opinion offered hope in the form of two surgeries while Andrew was in the womb and another fifteen after his birth.

Because transplanted kidneys do not last forever, Andrew's grandmother volunteered to donate hers first.

"I told Jenni, 'let me go first,'" Valentine said. "Save her kidney for him down the road."

"As a parent, you feel like you should be the one sacrificing that," Jenni said. "However, the doctors were all telling us 'let her go first, let her go first. We'll need your kidney later.'"

"I think he'll feel a tremendous difference" after the surgery, said surgeon Thomas Pearson of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

The transplant was a success, and for the first time in his life, Andrew was the proud owner of a healthy kidney.

Eight days after the surgery, 11Alive's Marc Pickard visited the family at their home in Canton. Both Andrew and his grandmother were out of the hospital and recovering. And, in about twenty years when he needs another kidney, his mother will be ready if he needs her.