Ryan Elbert’s laid back, down to earth demeanor might seem surprising, given all he’s gone through. The dialysis center at Cardinal Glennon is like a second home to him. Treatments three times a week would have that effect. However, as Ryan, 18, receives his treatment he talks with Megan McManus, dialysis child life specialist, in such a way it seems the two could be anywhere, least of all a hospital. He calls the nurses by their first names, but it is apparent their relationships extend a great deal beyond that.
Ups and Downs
Three years off and on Dialysis makes Ryan nearly an expert on the treatment, and he recounts his medical history in a way that assures every detail is accurate, a factor common among the recurring patients at Glennon. Ryan’s illness has continually brought him back to the third floor Dialysis center where he receives his treatments, and while his life has been filled with ups and downs, the Dialysis center appears to be one constant mean of support and help.
When Ryan was 15, he went into chronic kidney failure. For nearly two years, Ryan endured his disease with incredible strength, as he still does today. Dialysis treatments, catheters, and medication were all part of his life as his kidneys teetered between improvement and failure. Finally, in March and April 2007, Ryan lost both of his kidneys.
It’s a Match
Needing a transplant, his family was tested first to see if there were any possible donors. Fortunately, his sister Theresa was a match, a perfect match. The rarity of their match, usually found only in twins, meant Ryan and Theresa were nearly identical on paper, and on July 6, 2007, Theresa gave her brother one amazing gift.
Next door at St. Louis University Hospital, Theresa had her kidney removed in a minimally invasive, laparoscopic surgery. Across the street, Ryan awaited the transplant that was initially a success. Following the surgery, Ryan recovered for two weeks at Cardinal Glennon and then was able to go home.
However, by September problems with the new kidney had appeared. Unfortunately, the problems were too much, and after waiting to see if there would be improvement, Ryan’s perfect match kidney had to be removed on Jan. 8, 2008.
Ryan and his perfect match sister Theresa.
Back to the Familiar
Awaiting another transplant, Ryan now finds himself back on Dialysis. With an experience that might have made others give up, Ryan presses on with great will. Between going to school and his treatments, where he and McManus have lively discussions of German vending machines and quality television programs, Ryan enjoys mudding and off-roading in his Jeep.
“Every year I go mudding at the Buchanan Mudfest. It’s a lot fun,” Ryan says.
Until he receives a new kidney, Ryan continues his treatments three times a week. After his morning treatments, Ryan heads to school for an entire day of classes.
“It’s a long day for these guys to go through their treatments, and then have to go through an entire day of school. It’s impressive how Ryan keeps up.” McManus says.
Extremely impressive, considering his class load includes Physics, Geometry, and a media production class. Amazingly, Ryan manages it all, and he does so without the faintest look of defeat in his eyes.
While his next transplant may be uncertain, one thing is not. The Dialysis center at Cardinal Glennon continues to provide Ryan and others with a warm environment full of friendly faces and caring hearts. Tucked away on the third floor is a center that escapes the everyday hustle and bustle of a hospital and provides a place that feels like a home away from home for all its patients.