BOISE -- In February, we brought you the story of a Boise girl battling kidney disease and medical issues since birth finally getting a chance at a normal life.
Now, thanks to a St. Luke's employee, Sophia Fratto has a new kidney. Sophia had her kidney transplant on March 24 in Salt Lake City, marking her 20th surgery in her 12 short years. She was in the hospital for a couple weeks and just returned home to recover a few days ago.
There is a remarkable difference in Sophia from before she had her transplant to now; she has a special glow about her and her spirits have truly been lifted.
Back home in Boise, Sophia has a special token to remember the life-changing experience she just went through: a kidney-shaped pillow signed by all her doctors, nurses and transplant team in Utah. The pillow represents her new, healthy organ, signifying her new, healthy life.
"They said as soon as they hooked up her kidney it started working in the surgery room," Sophia Fratto's mom, Randee Gould, said, "and that's pretty unheard of."
To boot, her new kidney was put in just in time for her 12th birthday on Thursday! She says it was a great birthday present.
Sophia was born with only one working kidney. Then at 2-and-a-half years old, she was diagnosed with leukemia, undergoing chemotherapy for more than two years, which wiped out her functioning kidney. Before her transplant, Sophia was on dialysis for a year and half- an extremely draining process.
On Wednesday, just days after getting out of the hospital, she was recovering wonderfully.
"She is my miracle baby for sure," Gould said. "She just never ceases to amaze me."
Randee says she's grateful to see her little girl with a kick in her step, and with such a huge appetite.
"She just seems less worried, less stressed, less upset that she has to go to dialysis twice a week. She's happier, I think," Gould told KTVB.
Mom says she's relieved this part of the journey is through, but she does fear that something could go wrong or that her little girl could reject her new kidney.
"It's always in the back of your mind, but I mean we're just trying to cherish every day right now because she feels great. It's amazing to see color in her and she has an appetite,"
Randee says they have to monitor several things on a consistent daily basis: Sophia's blood pressure, her temperature, weight, fluid intake, and most importantly, her regimented anti-rejection medication.
"Any one of those things that goes off it could mean rejection or infection and I try not to let that stuff get to me but for the most part I'm just happy she's happy and healthy and it's working," Randee told KTVB.
Originally, Toni Martinez, a St. Luke's medical assistant who has known Sophia for years, decided to donate one of her own kidneys when she found out she was a perfect match.
"Just the fact of knowing a kid can have a normal life is huge. Makes me want to cry," Martinez said. "It's a small portion of your life to change others."
But the story gets better: Toni ended up taking part in a paired donation, allowing her kidney to be given to different recipient and opening up a chain of donations and allowing four people to receive a kidney - of course, including Sophia.
"If I wouldn't have said yes to a paired donation then none of it would have happened," Martinez added. "To me, I wanted to do what was best for Sophia."
Sophia was then able to get a younger kidney from the side of the donor's body that matched the kidney Sophia needed. This type of donation ended up being a better fit for everyone involved.
Sophia's direct donor is a woman named Mallory Wheatley Campbell, who lost her young daughter Macklyn to cancer last year.
"She lost her daughter last year to cancer and because Sophia had cancer it brought back a lot of memories for us. But that's why she wanted to do it was in Macklyn's honor," Gould said. "She's amazing. She saved Sophia's life."
So Sophia named her new kidney "Mack," in honor of her donor's late daughter.
All the support from loved ones and strangers has been amazing, Randee says, and she and Sophia are extremely grateful.
"It's meant the world to both of us."
Sophia's online school INSPIRE Connections Academy is also rallying around the family. Her classmates and teachers are hosting a fundraiser Thursday night to help with the family's medical and travel expenses. and 20 percent of the proceeds will go to Sophia's GoFundMe account.
"They're great. We never meet anybody in person, we just talk and email and text. And they called and asked if it was OK and I said 'of course,' " Randee added.
One of the teachers at Connections Academy, Susan Shock, told KTVB students from Connections Academy schools across the country have also been showing their support by sending cards and well wishes her way after hearing her story.
"School-wide we all wanted to do something," Shock told KTVB. "They're apart of our community and we want to do what we can."
The fundraiser will be at La Creme Frozen Yogurt at 8184 W. Overland Road in Boise from 6 to 8 p.m.