Post-transplant outlook encouraging for Wentz

Feb. 22, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

Surgery, and the key days immediately afterward, have gone well but not perfectly for Evie Wentz.

Evie is a 9-year-old from Moore County with kidney failure whose family attends the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Sanford. A fellow churchgoer volunteered to donate one of her kidneys to Evie, and the transplant took place this week. The girl will need a new kidney every decade or so.

This was Evie’s first transplant. She’s calling her new kidney “Gus Gus.”

Teri Clark, another member of the local Mormon church where Evie’s family and the donor, Harnett County woman Jenn Trapp, all came together, said Thursday morning that both Evie’s and Trapp’s surgeries had gone “textbook well” on Tuesday. Clark has been serving as spokeswoman and fundraising coordinator for the Wentz family.

Yet by Thursday afternoon, the diagnoses for both kidney donor and kidney recipient were slightly less rosy.

Trapp is reportedly having a somewhat rocky recovery, and Evie has come down with a fairly common virus that her dad, Tyler Wentz, said normally wouldn’t have been cause for too much concern — except for the fact that her immune system had to be essentially shut off for her body to accept the new kidney.

But Wentz said he’s thankful for a quick diagnosis from an excellent medical staff at Chapel Hill, and added that Evie also has benefited from spiritual medicine.

“The fact that we have so many people praying for her is what I think kept her alive in the first place,” Wentz said.

He said that even if Evie weren’t facing a virus, she’s still going to have issues for the rest of her life because of her disease, hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). However, he said, she has so far been mature and strong beyond her years.

“She’s a tough little cookie,” he said.

He also wrote online that the virus has now kept Evie from being able to visit Trapp and thank her for the kidney, “which frustrates Evie a lot, as she wants to see her.”

But the family is taking emotional reactions like that as good news, writing on Thursday morning that “Evie is feeling well enough to be cranky, given the pain in her stomach from the incision.”

She’s also not letting her surgery stop her from competing in the Battle of the Books, a statewide reading contest. She already finished reading all 18 required books and doing the quizzes, Clark said, and is now having her dad read her the fifth Harry Potter book. She read the first four herself but can’t lift the 870-page book because of pain from her surgery.

But given where they were just a week ago, Clark said, some soreness for Evie and some sleepless nights for her parents are more than welcome because they’re due to a successful surgery.

“After all of the stuff that they’ve been through — when she initially got sick, everything that could go wrong went wrong — but for her to have this kidney, everything is going right,” she said.

Evie’s dad agreed, saying that he and his wife, Heather, have had trouble wrapping their minds around the fact that their daughter actually has a working kidney.

“It was so great,” Tyler Wentz said, “such a relief.”

To provide updates for those who have been praying for Evie or donating to help defray the cost of surgery, the family has been writing a blog and regularly posting to the “Kidney for Evie” Facebook page, to which nearly 6,700 people subscribe.

The surgery cost around half a million dollars, and with their insurance, the Wentzes will have to pay approximately $45,000. As of Thursday, they had received more than $27,000 from friends, family, coworkers and complete strangers.

But Evie’s more focused on reading or watching movies than fundraising. She has been watching cartoons like “101 Dalmatians” and “Fantasia” in between reading, sleeping and even eating, and she’s taking small steps — literally and figuratively.

“Before bed, I helped Evie take tiny shuffle steps from her hospital bed to the bathroom,” Tyler wrote online Thursday. “It was hard for her to do, but she was determined.”