Lockport Teen Getting Life Back on Track after Kidney Transplant
Posted Aug 24 2008 2:24pm
Before jumping down to the story referenced in the title, I wanted to also call attention to a couple other stories relating to organ donation.
The Daily Herald ran a story this past weekend honoring organ donor Stephen Amer , who passed away in a car crash but helped save the lives of others through his selfless decision to be a donor.
In addition, the Kirkwood Webster Journal paid tribute to Sondra Sharpe , a 12-year-old that passed away in 2004 after losing a battle to cystic fibrosis. Sondra had originally organized an organ donor registration drive at her church but passed away before the event took place. In her honor, her family has hosted annual registration drives the past four years and will host the fifth-annual drive July 1-4 as part of Webster Groves' Community Days.
On April 29, Nicolette Bellos relished doing something most of us take for granted -- she took a shower.
Thanks to the kindness of a virtual stranger, the Lockport teen is seeing her life return to normal after living through a nearly two-year period of hospitals, blood transfusions and hemodialysis.
Because doctors put a catheter port in her chest for medicine and procedures, Nicolette need to keep it dry and was unable to shower. "I'm grateful to shower," she said. "I took about an hour, an hour and a half. I don't like to waste water."
In December 2006, Nicolette was just not feeling right. She had flu-like symptoms that eventually led to a diagnosis of vasculitis. Vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels, arteries, veins or capillaries. According to the Vasculitis Foundation, vasculitis can affect people of any age.
In addition to attacking the blood vessels, arteries, veins and capillaries, vasculitis can attack organs. In Nicolette's case, the disease attacked her kidneys.
Early on, her parents hoped her body might heal itself, but they knew it might get to the point that she needed a transplant, which she did. She received a donor kidney in March.
"She needed the transplant. Her kidneys had failed the first three weeks she was in the hospital," said dad Andy Bellos.
And the change in how she was feeling was immediate. "I was kind of feeling better right away," Nicolette said.
Because of the way vasculitis behaves, none of Nicolette's relatives could donate a kidney. Her body would sense it as her own and attack it. So the kidney had to come from someone else.
Right thing to do
The Herald News wrote about this challenge in August, and Roman Okrei, a well-known Joliet attorney, read the story. He said donating was just the right thing to do.
"If I am aware of it and I ignore it, what kind of man does that make me?" he said.
He went to the University of Illinois at Chicago for preliminary testing before he told the Bellos family about his intentions. Part of the screening process to be a living donor includes having to see a social worker.
"She said to me, 'Why are you doing this?' " he said. "And I said, 'Because you didn't.' You try to do what's best for people."
And it seems that even though they did not know each other well before the surgery, the pair were related at heart because Nicolette has the same outlook on life.
In April 2007, Nicolette turned 16. Still very ill and battling the disease, she chose to celebrate her birthday with a blood drive to replenish the supply of B positive blood she had used.
She has had a number of blood drives with the same intention of replenishing the supply and she plans to have one every year.
For right now, though, this Lockport teen is just trying to get her life back to normal.
Before falling ill, Nicolette was an accomplished violin player, loved to ride horses and dreamed of going to college and becoming a photographer. She is just returning to the things that make her happy.
She has started taking violin lessons already and hopes to return to the Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra.
While she was ill, she was granted a wish to meet the band members of Good Charlotte. She was given a camera to photograph the band. This is part of her dream job.
"I still want to be a personal photographer for a big band," she said.
She is also very excited to return to school.
"I don't want to miss prom next year," Nicolette said. "I don't want to miss my senior year."
And after that, Nicolette plans to attend Joliet Junior College and then Columbia to make her photography dream come true.