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Stonington - In December 2000, 10-year-old Zack Abbett of Stonington wrote a letter to Santa asking him for new kidney because his were failing.
His wish was answered by Tia DeWick, formerly of Montville, who read about the Christmas wish in The Day and donated one of her kidneys a few months later.
That kidney kept him alive for 13 years, but it began to fail earlier this year and on July 4, the now 23-year-old had to go on dialysis.
But last Wednesday, Abbett received another gift of life when a longtime friend gave him a kidney during a transplant at Hartford Hospital, where his first transplant surgery was performed. Abbett celebrated his release from the hospital Sunday with a pizza. On Monday, after a checkup, he returned to his Linda Lane home.
"I'm definitely very lucky and fortunate," he said Monday. "I'm happy to know there are people and friends out there to help me when I need it."
"I think Zack is blessed with a lot of people who care for him," added his mother, Laura Abbett.
Zack Abbett said he's feeling much better than he has in the past few months when he also underwent heart surgery and a procedure to drain fluid from his lungs.
Laura Abbett said the young man from Stonington who donated the kidney does not want to be publicly identified.
"He wanted to do this for his friend. He didn't want to do it for any publicity," she said.
"It was a very emotional experience for us. We are very close with his family," she said.
The transplant surgery began about 5:30 a.m. and ended at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. The kidney began making urine immediately and Abbett's creatinine levels dropped dramatically to healthy levels. High creatinine levels in the blood signify kidney malfunction. The surgery was done by Dr. Matthew Brown, one of the surgeons who transplanted Abbett's first kidney.
In addition to having to take immunosuppressant drugs the rest of his life, Abbett also has a genetic defect which causes kidney disease. This means that he will need another kidney at some point. His mother said her son's doctors were amazed at how well the new kidney was functioning and hope that this one will last longer than the first.
"But there's no way to know. You just pray medical science will be able to slow down the process of the kidney dying off," Laura Abbett said. "I hope medical science can get to the point where it can grow organs so people don't have to look for a donor."
She has become an outspoken advocate of organ donations, and said the recovery time for both donors and recipients has gotten much shorter, and donors give recipients a much better quality of life.
IF YOU WANT TO HELP
An online fund has been set up for the Abbetts, who are struggling with household and medical bills, at www.gofundme.com/kidneytake2.