Earlier this year, an 8-year-old child asked her mommy to sign her up to be a kidney donor for her friend Gwyn. While age limits make it impossible for her to give a kidney, the story of this little girl’s kindness and generosity will surely be transplanted into the hearts of many others who can.
By Kayleen Holder
Gwyn Mia DeLeon, 14, is a freshman at Devine High School. This bright smiling young woman is very active in school and church, and has many hopes and dreams. But this February 2, 2022, Gwyn’s family received devastating and completely unexpected news–her kidneys are failing. Now the family is left waiting and praying that a kind soul will come forward to be her “living donor.”
“Gwyn is a warrior with the biggest heart!” Mrs. Beverly DeLeon said. “She is kind, one of the sweetest souls you will ever meet. What we love about Gwyn the most is her resilience through it all, even through hospitalizations she was able to achieve top 10 in her class and the rank of class president.”
The diagnosis came as a complete shock.
“She previously had no indication of any medical conditions until this moment,” said Mrs. DeLeon, who notes Gwyn has been on dialysis ever since.
“We are praying that we are able to find a living donor who is match for her,” Mrs. DeLeon said. “We trained for two weeks to be able to do dialysis at home. It runs for 8 hours at night. My husband and I hook her up at night and then disconnect Gwyn in the morning.”
Gwyn also loves theatre arts, and also enjoys UIL and playing tennis. Gwyn also has hopes to accompany FBC Devine mission trips to Kentucky when she is able.
“Gwyn’s dream is to work in the medical field someday helping those that are in need,” says her mother Beverly. “She does lots of community service in her spare time.”
Mr. and Mrs. Jeremy and Beverly DeLeon, of Devine, couldn’t be more proud of their sweet daughter Gwyn and her determination. The family has lived in Devine for many years and you might recognize them from around town. Gwyn’s mom, Beverly, works at Devine Intermediate School, and her father Jeremy works at the power plant in Pearsall.
About two weeks before the diagnosis of end stage renal failure, Gwyn came down with a fever, nausea, and a cough. She had also been having headaches.
“We did a telemed visit, and after about a week, she still had a cough which concerned me. I came home one day and noticed her heart was racing. I took her oxygen sat, and it was 92, so I took her to the doctor at Frio Regional Hospital right away. The doctor took her blood pressure which was really high, 170/90, and when her labs came back, they told us to go to the emergency room in San Antonio. When they took her blood pressure there, at first, the nurses thought the machine was broken. They did it once, then tried it again, and I told them no, it was the same at the other hospital too. As it turns out, her headaches over the past few months, which we thought nothing of, were being caused by high blood pressure, which is what doctors believe caused damage to her kidneys. Gwyn has always been so young and healthy; I never thought to take her blood pressure.”
“She has not let her medical condition defeat her or slow her down one bit. Gwyn has continued to be in all that she can,” Mrs. DeLeon adds. “She is the strongest kid I know. There are not many people who could handle what she is going through with so much grace.”
A family friend and fellow church member, Nancy Pepper, also commented.
“Gywn is a very special girl. She always has a smile and hug for everyone. I have never heard her complain, although she would have had reason to. The DeLeon family are strong Christians and have placed their faith in God to guide them through. During the time she was in the hospital, so many people rallied around the family and provided transportation for her to the treatments, meals for the family and special meals for her since she had to be on a very special diet. We all did what a small town does for one of their own. Now we need to do more – we need to help find a donor!”
The DeLeon family has 5 children, including siblings Seth, Jaelyn, Karsyn and Evan. Proud grandparents are David and Lourdes DeLeon, Dolores Carrasco & late Pat Carrasco.
Finding a living donor would be a huge blessing, especially for young children and adolescents with end stage kidney failure, because a kidney from a living donor can last 12-20 years.
If you find it in your heart to get tested to see if you might be Gwyn’s match, Mrs. DeLeon urges community, family, and friends to check out information on utclivingdonor.com to answer a few questions.
So far, 24 people have signed up to be tested, and due to health reasons that list has been cut to 15 eligible to apply, but a match hasn’t been found yet.
“Of those 24 people, I only know who 5 of them are,” Mrs. DeLeon said, on the verge of tears. “I just wish I could say Thank You and give all of them a big hug. We say those words–thank you–every day, but I have never realized how much these two little words can mean.”
In these hard months, she spoke of one of the most touching moments.
“There is a little 8-year-old girl in Devine, Lily Newburg, who came forward and asked her mom to sign her up to donate one of her kidneys to my daughter. She was ready to do it,” Mrs. DeLeon said with a smile in her heart.
Of course, you have to be an adult to be an organ donor, but the kindness of this child’s heart is truly unmatched.
What is KIDNEY PAIRED DONATION?
“This is a really important question that you’ll be asked, because it will increase our chances of finding a donor faster,” said Mrs. DeLeon. “They’ll ask if you are willing to do a KPP (Kidney Paired Donation) because even if you aren’t a match for Gwyn, you might be a match for someone else who has a donor that came forward who is a match for Gwyn.”
As of September 1, there were 105,961 people experiencing organ failure are waiting for the person who will give them “the gift of life.” Experts say over 1,900 of those waiting for organ donation, are children, with nearly a quarter of them less than 5 years old.
More info on living organ donation…
Over 90,000 people are waiting for a kidney, just like Gwyn. Once added to the national registry, people wait an average of 3-5 years for organ donation.
How can living people donate a kidney?
Most people with one kidney live healthy, normal lives with few problems. (Kidney.org)
What organs can come from living donors?
The organ most commonly given by a living donor is the kidney. Parts of other organs including the lung, liver and pancreas are now being transplanted from living donors.
Who can be a living kidney donor?
You must be at least 18 years old at all transplant centers. Some centers require a donor to be 21 or a little older. There are some medical conditions that could prevent you from being a living donor. These include having uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, HIV, hepatitis, or acute infections. You should always let the transplant center decide if you can be a living donor.
How long does a transplanted kidney last?
On average, a kidney from a living donor lasts about 15 to 20 years. Some will last longer; others might last less.
Is Kidney donation a major surgery?
Surgeons almost always perform minimally invasive surgery to remove a living donor’s kidney (laparoscopic nephrectomy) for a kidney transplant. (Mayo Clinic)
How to SEND A CARD of encouragement to Gwyn…
If you would like to send a card of encouragement for Gwyn DeLeon, you can send it to First Baptist Church PO Box 468, Devine, TX 78016.
If you have it in your heart to donate a kidney for Gwyn, Mrs. DeLeon urges community, family, and friends to check out information on utclivingdonor.com to answer a few questions.