New Prague teen on waiting list for kidney transplant


Mitchel Kajer, with his mom Tammy, is on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. The New prague High School freshman has had to adjust his schedule and activities as his one good kidney begins to fail. (Chuck Kajer Photo)

Fourteen-year-old Mitchel Kajer has gone through life with only one kidney. While it was always something that he and his family have always been aware of, he’s been able to follow a pretty normal routine for a young, growing boy. He enjoyed playing basketball and golf, hanging out with friends, participating in gym class and other activities.

But doctors had warned his family that when he hit puberty, things would change. His one functioning kidney would begin to fail.

Mitchel grew four inches since last winter, and things have changed for the New Prague High School freshman.

“We found out when I was pregnant that he had only one kidney, so we’ve been preparing for this for a long time,” his mother Tammy said.

Mitchel’s kidney had been functioning at around 60 percent for quite awhile, but that number began going down early in 2012, and by last month the function had dropped to 20 percent.

Having a failing kidney means that Mitchel has to watch his hydration. He drinks between three to five gallons of water over the course of a day. He can’t be as active as he once was, because if he breaks a sweat, he stands a good chance of becoming dehydrated.

As the kidney began to fail, Mitchel found he tired easily. He sometimes sleeps for 12 hours a day. “He can’t fight off colds or the flu either,” said Tammy, noting that he has missed a lot of school when he gets sick.

“The school makes a lot of accommodations for him,” Tammy said. “They’ve been very good about it. His counselor (Janel Hengel) has helped a lot, but it’s been a real tough fall.”

Tammy and her husband Paul have been taking Mitchel to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester since he was very young, and doctors had prepared them for the day when the kidney would begin to lose function.

Last month, when his functionality dropped to 20 percent, Mitchel was placed on a list for a kidney transplant.

The family has known that a transplant would be necessary for a long time. Family has been tested to find a match for Mitchel, but they have not been able to find a suitable match.

For now, Mitchel’s condition is being monitored by doctors. he goes in to his local doctor for a checkup every two weeks, and the results are sent to Rochester.

Tammy said they’ve been told that people can be on the waiting list for a healthy kidney anywhere from three days to 18 months. When a healthy kidney is found, doctors have about an hour to contact the Kajers. Paul and Tammy have a bag packed and ready, because when they get the call, they will need to be in Rochester within five or six hours and get prepped for the surgery. After that, there would be a six- or seven-day hospital stay, followed by three or four weeks at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester before Mitchel could come home.

In the meantime, Mitchel is trying to enjoy life and live as normally as possible, all the while while waiting for that call.