Gray 12-year-old gets new kidney

Shayla McGraw, 12, with her grandmother Jackie McGraw, right, and great-grandmother Patti Preble. Shayla recieved a kidney transplant in the early hours of Thursday, June 8, after months on dialysis. 

PORTLAND — After months of waiting and countless trips to dialysis, 12-year-old Shayla McGraw of Gray finally has a new kidney. And as she has throughout her ordeal, she’s taking it all in stride.

“Eh, it hurts a little bit,” McGraw said when asked about her pain level last Friday in her pediatric intensive care unit room at Maine Medical Center. “It feels better though.”

McGraw, a sixth-grader at Gray-New Gloucester Middle School, was whisked to the hospital in Portland last Wednesday evening when her family got news that a kidney was available. Shayla’s great-grandmother, Patti Preble of New Gloucester, was driving her home from dialysis in Westbrook when the call came and took her straight to the hospital.

Shayla went into surgery at 1 a.m. Thursday and by 4 a.m. she had a third kidney to do the work that her two others had been failing to do. She even got a look at it before she went under anesthesia for the transplant.

“It was cool,” McGraw said about seeing her new kidney. “They’re actually really small.”

Shayla and her family were told by doctors last September that she had end-stage renal failure, a shocking diagnosis for an otherwise healthy girl who loves art and likes to fish with her grandfather.

McGraws grandparents, Jackie and Walter, have raised her since she was a baby. Their close-knit community of friends and family stepped up to help during a challenging time – from offers to donate a kidney, rides to the doctor and efforts to raise money for the family’s medical expenses.

The Gray-New Gloucester chapter of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles – of which both Jackie and Walter McGraw are members – hosted an ice fishing derby fundraiser for the family in February that organizers said reeled in $8,601.

Shayla came home from the hospital on Tuesday, though she has a long road to full recovery that will include taking about 10 pills per day to start and many follow-up trips to the doctor, Jackie McGraw said.

She also said that the family doesn’t know and may never know who Shayla’s new kidney came from, though they attempt to make contact through the donor network.

“We can write them a letter and thank the person or the family, whoever it came from,” Jackie noted. “We’ll do that, we’re going to send a letter eventually.”

Shayla was receiving visitors last week at Maine Medical Center’s Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital,  including Elaine Woodward, who works at Casco Bay Dialysis in Westbrook.

Woodward said that everyone at the center was very excited that Shayla had received the transplant.

“We will miss her greatly. We all loved her. I think we’re all mother hens there,” Woodward said. “The patients loved her, too, they just adored her.”

Shayla was the youngest patient at the dialysis center, and she would make a point to hug each of the other patients. She said that during each visit, she would save one “scare hug” for an unsuspecting fellow patient.

“It’s where I sneak up behind them and give them a huge bear hug,” Shayla explained. “I’ve gotten every one of them.”

Shayla – who sounds a bit like a doctor when she rattles off the details of her disease, surgery and way forward in her recovery – says that the dietitian at the dialysis center would like her to come back once she has recovered and teach nutrition classes for some of the older patients.

Jackie says Shayla was on a strict phosphorus-free diet during dialysis, and that she can now eat more things that she couldn’t before the transplant.

“When we get home, she’s getting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” Jackie said last week when Shayla was still in the hospital. “She can’t wait for that.”

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Shayla McGraw, 12, with her grandmother Jackie McGraw, right, and great-grandmother Patti Preble. Shayla recieved a kidney transplant in the early hours of Thursday, June 8, after months on dialysis.

Shayla McGraw received a transplant last week after months of battling kidney disease.

Shayla McGraw participated in the Maine Nephrology Associates’ 5K Walk/Run for Kidney Health earlier this spring before receiving a kidney transplant last week.