Three and a half months after welcoming their second child, Mackenzie, into the world, Wes and Danielle Hooker’s lives were turned upside down in an instant. While visiting Danielle’s parents, Mackenzie developed a bad cough and had to be rushed to the emergency room. At the hospital, the baby’s blood pressure and heart rate soared.
At one point, she became septic. Danielle, who works in the neonatal intensive care unit at VCU Medical Center, knew it was bad. Her daughter, who seemed perfectly healthy the day before, could die. After an ultrasound was performed on Mackenzie, the doctors found the root of her health problems.
Mackenzie was born with an extremely small bladder. Because of that very serious defect, urine had been refluxing into her kidneys during the first three and a half months of her life. The damage to her kidneys was irreversible.
“I was in complete shock when I found out about Mackenzie’s problems,” Danielle remembers. “I couldn’t believe that those problems had been masking themselves for three plus months.”
Since the diagnosis, the Hookers have seen their daughter through several surgeries, including the removal of one of her kidneys. But because of the damage that occurred during the first few months of her life, she will eventually need a kidney transplant.
She’s not alone. According to the National Kidney Foundation of Virginia (NKF), there are more than one hundred thousand people on the waiting list for an organ transplant. Of those, over 75 percent are waiting for a kidney. One in eight Virginians suffers from some form of chronic kidney disease, and over nine thousand people in Virginia are currently on dialysis.
Despite Mackenzie’s condition and all of the required doctors’ visits, she is a happy, active 4-year-old. This energetic little girl may be small for her age, but her spirit is huge.
Perhaps that’s why the Hookers were chosen to serve as this year’s “honored family” at the 2009 Richmond Kidney Walk in Innsbrook, an event designed to promote awareness and raise money for the fight against kidney disease.
“I decided to get our family involved with the NKF to help spread the word among our family and friends,” says Danielle. “I don’t think most people understand what your kidneys do and how important they are to your body. I think everyone should be involved because it could just as easily be them or someone they know on dialysis or in need of a transplant.”