Paying it forward: Siblings’ illness raises awareness for kidney transplants
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@cherokeetribune.com
October 28, 2011 11:59 PM | 3476 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Eleven-year-old Sarah Dickman, left, underwent a kidney transplant in 2008, and now her brother, Bryson, 10, has been diagnosed with the same rare kidney disease. Sarah and Bryson have recently gotten involved with the Pennies for Patients fundraising program at Chapman Intermediate School to help others in need.<br>Cherokee Tribune/Todd Hull
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TOWNE LAKE — Sarah Dickman was given a second chance to live by a stranger. Now, her younger brother, Bryson, needs that same act of kindness to survive. Bryson, 10, is suffering from medullary cystic disease, a rare genetic kidney disorder, the same disease his sister was afflicted with three years ago.

Bryson has stage 4 kidney failure and is in need of a kidney transplant. His mother, Lori Dickman, said the situation for the family, who lives in southwest Cherokee County, is turning for the worse.

“Right now, he’s OK, but his numbers keep getting worse,” Lori said, referring to parameters used to measure kidney health. “If we can’t find a donor within the next few months, he may have to go on dialysis.”

Sarah was 8 when doctors discovered she needed a kidney transplant after being diagnosed with medullary cystic disease. Her donor, Laura Bolan, saw a flier at Oak Grove Elementary School where her children also attended. She had never met Sarah before, but after learning she was a match, she decided to give Sarah her kidney. The operation was successfully completed in 2008 and Sarah is in good health.

Bryson, who loves basketball and baseball, said he is hopeful someone will do the same thing for him.

Bryson is currently on the kidney transplant list and has routine checkups and renal testing. Unfortunately, both Lori and her husband, Joe, are unable to provide their son with one of their kidneys. Lori has health issues that prevent her from qualifying as a match and Joe has a different blood type than his son.

Because Sarah is unable to help her brother, she’s decided to reach out and help other children.

A couple of weeks ago, the 11-year-old girl was sitting at home watching television with her mother when she decided it was her turn to give back.

Lori Dickman said her daughter turned to her and said, “Mommy, I want to help other kids in this world.” Fortunately, Chapman Intermediate School, where both Sarah and Bryson attend, had given students a box to help raise money for Pennies for Patients, an organization that collects spare change to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Sarah seized the opportunity, her mother said.

“She suggested making a poster that told people about this special lady that saved her life,” Lisa Dickman said, referring to Sarah’s kidney donor. “Now she wants to help other kids that are in need of food or money for their medical expenses.”

Sarah and her mother went door to door in their neighborhood to ask for change. The two collected $33.66.

“She was so excited to take it to school so they could make sure it gets to the kids who need it the most,” Lori said.

Chapman students and teachers have raised $3,600 so far for the Pennies for Patients program.

“I felt proud to raise the money,” Sarah said, sitting next to her brother in the school’s cafeteria.

While Bryson and Sarah’s father can’t donate a kidney, he is registered in the Paired Donor Exchange Program with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.

“Bryson’s dad is willing to give a kidney and he is AB positive,” Lori said. Bryson is a B positive blood-type. She said that if another child is in need of her husband’s kidney, he will donate one of his kidneys if Bryson is able to get a kidney in return.

“It’s the most awesome thing,” Lori Dickman said of the program, “It’s almost like a chain that can save many lives through this process.”

That chain of kindness is similarly encouraged at Chapman, said Principal Susan McCarthy.

“It’s part of our school initiative to build a foundation for giving through our character education program,” she said.

McCarthy said she was humbled by Sarah’s desire to give back to others in need.

“For Sarah to understand that the same kind of giving allowed her to thrive, I am so proud of her,” she said. “When I hear she wants to give back, that’s like the perfect full circle of the human spirit.”

If Bryson gets a donor as his older sister did, Lori Dickman said her family would be forever indebted to that individual.

“I would be filled with so much joy,” she said. “It’s a miracle that someone saved my daughter’s life. For someone to help keep my son here in this world would be such a blessing. I couldn’t thank them enough.”
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