Annika Wyant really doesn’t like needles. Or shots. Or anything related to medical procedures that might result in something sharp contacting her skin.
So when Annika, at age 13, underwent a kidney transplant at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, the entire process was very hard on her. But the doctors, nurses and child life specialists at the hospital made a huge difference for the teen throughout her treatment, taking extra care to comfort her as she made her way through an incredibly difficult time. “They were all really accommodating of a teenager’s feelings,” says her dad, Sam.
Annika’s health problems began in February 2020, when her parents learned she was anemic after a school physical. They changed her diet and gave her some iron pills, but she continued suffering from more and more bloody noses and was tired all the time. On March 15, her bloody nose was severe enough that they took her to the local emergency room in their hometown of Rockford, Illinois. Doctors there quickly determined she was in kidney failure and needed to see a nephrologist. The Wyants chose American Family Children’s Hospital for Annika’s care, and her mother, Janna, rode with her there in the ambulance. “Looking back at it, we know she was close to death that night,” says Sam.
In Madison, UW Health doctors educated the Wyants about kidney failure and what they needed to do to help her. First, they had to clean her blood through dialysis, starting at the hospital and then continuing at home. Then, they needed to prepare her for a kidney transplant, which would be the only way to get her on the road to recovery.
Both of Annika’s parents underwent testing to be living kidney donors and, remarkably, both were matches. Because Janna was a slightly better match, she prepared to donate her kidney to her daughter. “There was no doubt that one of us was going to do it,” says Janna. “I was concerned, but I knew it had to happen.”
Annika and Janna underwent their transplant surgeries on October 7. Annika responded well to Janna’s gift of life, and she has spent the school year healing and trying to stay away from other people to protect herself from the coronavirus. Now 14, Annika loves reading, art and spending time with her dog, goats and chickens, and she’s looking forward to the day when she can join her classmates in person again. “Other than the boredom of isolation, she’s much more herself than she has been in more than a year,” says Sam. “She’s cracking jokes again.”
And as for those pesky needles at the hospital? Annika’s nurses have done everything they can to make her feel more comfortable—and it’s worked. “I still don’t like IVs,” Annika says, “but blood draws are OK now.”