Despite setbacks, Stonington family still hopeful of finding kidney donor

Stonington — Zachary Abbett's tough life is getting tougher.

The 10-year-old, who has dealt with disease and disability since birth, found out recently that his father does not qualify as a kidney donor and one of his teachers has been disqualified also, both because of their own health problems.

His mother was ruled out earlier because of her high blood pressure, but she wants to argue that point with doctors now that the recent glimmer of hope has faded for the family. Zachary was diagnosed in February with juvenile kidney failure.

Dialysis is getting closer as his kidneys get worse, but Zachary is fighting it, Laura Abbett said. She's hoping a counselor can help her son deal with the impending decision. Doctors typically wait until a patient's kidneys are operating at 20 to 25 percent of their ability before starting the three-times-a-week regimen that purifies the blood and leaves the patient weak.

“He's very close,” Abbett said. “We'll find out after the blood work on Thursday.”

The dialysis schedule is bad enough, but insurance is making it worse.

Westerly Hospital has a dialysis center, but the Abbetts, who live on Bradley Street in Stonington Borough, will have to drive to New Haven because that's what insurance dictates. Their van is approaching 200,000 miles, so Westerly would make life easier on several fronts.

The family is covered by Alan Abbett's policy through Wyman Gordon Corp. in Groton, where he is a foundry worker. Laura Abbett is a lunch aide at Mystic Middle School.

“We're really between a rock and a hard place because our income is low enough to qualify for the state insurance program HUSKY, but because of my husband's insurance we can't qualify for it,” she said. But the insurance company pays only 70 percent of the bill for a doctor outside its network.

Medical bills and layoffs bankrupted the family last year, and two borough residents have established a fund to help the family. Donations may be sent to the Zachary Abbett Kidney Fund, c/o Fleet Bank, Cannon Square, Stonington, CT 06378.

In addition, two fund-raising events are scheduled. On Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Stonington Shell station on Route 1 will host a car wash. Hot dogs have been donated for sale and station owner Shawn Magliano of Colchester is hoping to offer other items as well. Mystic Middle School is planning a spaghetti supper Oct. 15.

On Thursday, the family will go to Hartford Hospital for a round of visits with doctors and more tests to see how Zachary is doing. Laura Abbett said the boy has a long list of doctors and will add another one Thursday when he sees a gastroenterologist who will try to determine why Zachary has started vomiting recently.

“He's taking a high dose of iron for anemia and he could be throwing up because of the anemia or it could be he's close to renal failure,” Laura Abbett said. “We go to Hartford Thursday to see his nephrologist for his kidney and a gastroenterologist to see what's wrong with his stomach.”

He's also on blood pressure medication because high blood pressure is one result of bad kidneys.

Zachary has been in and out of hospitals and doctors' offices since birth. He was born with a mild form of cerebral palsy that still requires braces on his feet. The Save-A-Kid Fund at Millstone Nuclear Power Station has agreed to pay for Zachary's new braces.

He also was born with a vision disability and when he was 6 his immune system went haywire after fighting off a virus and started attacking his spine, resulting in post-viral spinal encephalitis.

He recently underwent ear surgery because one of the tubes implanted to help stop infections didn't come out properly and the area did not heal.

Zachary is on a list at Hartford Hospital as a patient in need of a kidney and the search for a donor continues now that his father and teacher have been ruled out. Laura Abbett said it was a shock for everyone when doctors said her husband had problems that need to be checked out.

They had gotten as far as scheduling the transplant for Oct. 11.

She said she's willing to transport anyone interested in going through the donor screening up to Hartford Hospital. People can call the hospital to ask about the process by contacting the Abbetts' transplant coordinator, Audrey White, at 860-493-2511, ext. 225.

While the search continues for a donor, Laura Abbett is starting to consider another avenue that she feels is her responsibility and her right.

“They rejected me because I have high blood pressure and that may lead to kidney problems for me later, but I want to argue that with them,” she said. “I feel it's my right if I want to risk going on dialysis later on. I'd rather go through that myself than have Zachary go through it. He's been through enough.”
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