Ryan and Ashley Wagner met in high school and got married when they graduated from college. Ashley learned she was pregnant a few months after their wedding and the newlyweds looked forward to a whole new life together.
Then, Ryan came down with what he thought was a stomach bug. When he went to the doctor, however, he was told he had colon cancer. The young man was just 29 years old and had no family history of the disease.
The couple tried to stay positive. They still had their baby to look forward to and they hoped that modern medicine could cure the cancer. Just five months after the original diagnosis, doctors gave the Wagners hard news. The cancer had spread. Ryan now had stage 4 cancer, and their was no possibility of a cure.
Ryan’s chemotherapy treatments were hard on him and left him feeling drained. The birth of Miles in August 2014 gave him a boost in energy. The boy was healthy and happy.
After about a month, the couple started noticing that Miles was sick. Doctors thought he simply had acid reflux at first, but soon it was clear that the situation was more serious. When he was two months old, Miles had a seizure, and the Wagners knew something was gravely wrong.
The couple rushed Miles to the emergency room, where doctors examined him. They learned that Miles had primary hyperoxaluria. The disease causes the body to excrete too much of the chemical oxalate. The body can’t break the excess oxalate down and it damages the kidneys and other organs.
A new liver was the only hope for Miles. The news was hard to face considering the dire situation that Ryan was in. He had gone through 71 chemotherapy treatments since his diagnosis, and worrying about his son was the last thing he needed.
The family continued to try to stay positive, and finally a liver became available from a living donor. While initially there were complications, eventually the boy’s body accepted the new organ.
By this time, so much kidney damage had occurred that Miles would need a new kidney as well. He would have to heal from the liver surgery, and the family would have to find a donor before a transplant could be done. In the meantime, a dialysis machine would keep him alive.
While Miles recuperated after surgery, Ashley turned to the next challenge. Waiting for a deceased kidney donor could take years, so she turned to social media for help.
The young mother posted, “Is it on your bucket list to save a life?” A former classmate of the Wagners, Elizabeth Wolodkiewicz, saw the post and noticed that she was the same blood type as Miles. She decided to reach out to see if she was a match for the young boy.
Wolodkiewicz humbly said, “Shouldn’t it be on everyone’s bucket list to save a life?” She went to a doctor to be tested, and as luck would have it, she was a perfect match for Miles. Surgery was scheduled for February 6, 2017, and Ashley was thrilled to have overcome one more hurdle in her family’s fight.
The surgery took place without a hitch. Wolodkiewicz was released from the hospital quickly, and the anesthesiologist said that Miles had the “cutest wake up” he had ever seen. His numbers are all where they should be and he’s been blowing kisses to the nurses.
Ashley posted a heartfelt message to Facebook, which said in part, “If I had to sum up today with one word, it would be gratitude.” She listed all of the medical staff that had made the transplant a success, and then she got to two very special people to her. “And lastly, gratitude to Abby, Miles’ liver donor, and Liz, Miles’ kidney donor. The feeling of relief that has radiated throughout our bodies today would not be possible without Abby and Liz.”
She continued, “The bright, BRIGHT future that’s in store for Miles would not be possible without his incredible organ donors. To be on the receiving end of organ donation not once but twice leaves me in awe, truly.”
Living with cancer is a hard thing to do, but it’s even harder when your child is sick as well. Getting Miles back to his healthy, happy self is giving a great infusion of joy to the Wagners’ lives. No one can predict what the future holds, but for now, this family is happy just to enjoy one another’s company and count their blessings.