Andover blood, bone marrow and organ donor drive April 12

Blood transfusions and a kidney transplant have saved the life of an eight-year-old Andover boy. Three different organizations are putting on a blood, organ and bone marrow drive Thursday, April 12 at Andover Elementary School.

Kidney transplants and blood transfusions have saved the life of Zachary Elsenpeter, 8, of Andover. Donors are encouraged to come to the April 12 blood, bone marrow and organ donation drive at Andover Elementary School to help save lives. Submitted photo

Kidney transplants and blood transfusions have saved the life of Zachary Elsenpeter, 8, of Andover. Donors are encouraged to come to the April 12 blood, bone marrow and organ donation drive at Andover Elementary School to help save lives. Submitted photo

The school is located at 14950 Andover Blvd. N.W. at the southwest corner of Crosstown and Hanson boulevards. The event is from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Zachary Elsenpeter, a second-grade student at Andover Elementary, will be honored during this donor drive. He received his first kidney transplant from his father Wade just a couple of weeks before his first birthday in December 2004. A little over one year later, his body was beginning to reject the kidney.

By the age of five, Zachary was having serious chronic kidney failure and was in need of a second transplant.

He went through plasmapheresis, IVIG and high dose steroids to stop the rejection, but Zachary’s body and kidney took a beating, his mother, Stacey Elsenpeter, said.

Hundreds of people were tested to see if they were a match, but they were not having any luck. They were told there was less than a 3 percent chance to find a donor. The challenge was Zachary’s antibodies are so high. He was put on hemodialysis.

They enlisted in the paired exchange program and were able to find a match. Stacey donated a kidney as part of the program. Both went through their surgical procedures on Jan. 18 of this year on the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus, although Zachary was at the Children’s Hospital and Stacey was at Fairview.

Stacey was told that Zachary was the first child in Minnesota to be involved in the paired kidney exchange program. She said he will be meeting his donor on April 22.

Stacey said Zachary’s body has accepted the kidney, but he has had viral infections because doctors had to suppress his immune system so the kidney would not be rejected. He has been unable to go to classes at Andover Elementary since December and instead has been taught at home.

Zachary has had many surgeries throughout his life. Each required a blood transfusion. When the American Red Cross asked if Zachary could be recognized at the April 12 blood drive, Stacey said they wanted to give back.

“Zachary is alive today because of blood transfusions,” Stacey said.

Stacey herself received a blood and platelet transfusion in January 2000 during her first pregnancy with her future daughter Kiley.

To help increase the organ donor list and save lives, Donate Life America will also be at Andover Elementary to hand out organ donor registration cards. Be the Match will be on hand to ask people to sign up for the bone marrow donor registry.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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