Stonington — Laura Abbett mailed a letter to Santa Claus from her 10-year-old son last week.
“Dear Santa Claus,” it began. “Hello, my name is Zachary Robert Abbett. I need a kidney. That would be the best present ever but you can't give me a kidney. That's O.K. ... Thanks for listening.
“Sincerely, your friend, Zachary.”
Zachary's kidneys are failing because of a genetic disorder, and he may soon have to undergo dialysis treatments. When his plight was first publicized a few months ago, many people offered to donate a kidney to the fifth-grader. All but one who still is being screened have been rejected because their blood type didn't match Zachary's Type O, or because of health problems or other factors.
Zachary's parents cannot donate a kidney because of their own health problems, something that Laura Abbett said has made their son's problem even more painful for them.
If no match is found, Zachary will be placed on a waiting list for a kidney from an organ donor, a wait that could take years. Meanwhile, he continues to take up to 11 medications a day and is fighting a persistent vomiting problem that makes eating difficult and scarred his esophagus.
Despite battling nausea Sunday night, Zachary excitedly helped his parents and sister decorate a Christmas tree in their Bradley Street home after spending the day shopping with his father, Alan.
“He can't wait for Christmas. He's so excited,” Laura Abbett said, as Zachary suddenly turned shy and decided he'd rather not answer questions.
The community and the school system have rallied around the Abbetts, helping to defray their considerable expenses. The van they use to take Zachary to medical appointments each week has almost 200,000 miles on it, and it's been breaking down more and more. The Abbetts worry about how they will make the trips they must make to Hartford and New Haven.
Despite Zachary's uncertain future, Laura Abbett said her family is looking forward to a “great Christmas” because of the help they've received from the community. Without that help, they would have been unable to afford presents. Donations may be sent to the Zachary Abbett Kidney Fund, c/o Fleet Bank, Cannon Square, Stonington, CT 06378.
“They've made this so much easier for us,” she said. “What worries me is the new year. When I see the new year, I see (insurance) deductibles.”
Some of Zachary's treatments, such as recent genetic testing done by a German hospital, have not been covered by insurance.
Laura Abbett said her son has asked her, “Why did God do this to me? Doesn't he like me?”
“As a parent that's so hard to answer,” she said. “I tell him that God wouldn't do this to you on purpose. It's an unfortunate accident. He wouldn't give you more than you can take.”
She said she also tells her son that it's his job to educate people about his illness and the importance of people becoming organ donors.
In addition to the kidney problems, Zachary has had to battle developmental and other medical problems throughout his childhood. He could not walk until he was 4 years old, and at 6 a spinal infection left him temporarily blind and paralyzed.
“Zachary has struggled so much. He has worked so hard even to just walk. He'll fight this as long as he possibly can,” Laura Abbett said.
The Abbetts hold out hope that this Christmas will bring word from Zachary's transplant coordinator at Hartford Hospital that a match has been found.
“He said he knows he'll get a kidney at some point because Christmas is a time of giving,” Laura Abbett said.