Kidney Transplant Changes Kassie Baeten’s Life

Ryan Ehlinger, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Everyone has a relative that they are especially close to.

For Kassie Baeten, that closeness goes far deeper than most.

Baeten said, “I have a special connection with her.” She is referencing her aunt, who donated a kidney to her young niece eleven years ago.

At the age of six Baeten realized she was different from most children. She remembers, “My mom told me that ever since I was very little I was always very sick.”

Baeten’s mother decided to get her tested because her family history is spotted with kidney disease.

Baeten said, “I remember she started crying, and I didn’t really know what was going on.” That was when Baeten’s life began to change.

Her days became an endless series of doctor visits and preventative shots, but all the treatments in the world could not stop the inevitable.

Baeten needed a new kidney, and luckily she found a match through her aunt.

However, it was not as easy as just one procedure. Baeten’s aunt was considered obese and suffered from a smoking addiction.

Her aunt lost the unnecessary weight and beat her smoking problem in two short years. Just in time to give Baeten the healthy kidney she needed.

Years have passed and Baeten leads a healthy and happy life. She said, “I can do most things normal kids can do.”

Unfortunately, living with one kidney does lead to some complications. The same anti-rejection medicine that is keeping Baeten alive is also keeping her white blood cell count at a consistent low. She gets sick more easily than most, and simple things like the flu or a cough can be dangerous.

Baeten remembers during her sophomore year at Notre Dame Academy she missed two weeks of school because her white blood cell count had actually reached zero.

For Baeten, looking towards the future is not as simple as making plans to go to college or join the workforce.

She said, “I will probably need a new kidney within the next ten years.” Her aunt’s kidney is old, and the “wear and tear” on a foreign organ within a body is accelerated.  

Baeten remains hopeful, as advancements in science such as kidneys grown out her own cells seem to be right around the corner.