Life returns: Kidney donor meets her match

By David Fleet
Hunter Molyneux is home.
The 14-year-old Flushing Middle School student received a new kidney on Nov. 17 at University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital, Ann Arbor, a three year journey that rallied a community, friends and family in support.
In 2011, Hunter was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation in the digestive tract. While he was receiving treatment for the disease, the condition couldn’t be cured. Then in October 2021, Hunter and his family learned that he was in stage four kidney failure due to complications caused by Crohn’s. On June 20 Hunter started on dialysis three days per week. Doctors are not positive what’s causing the kidney damage but believe it’s a secondary condition to the Chrohns
“Hunter needed a new kidney,” said Heidi Molyneux, Hunter’s mother, a former Genesee County Sheriff Deputy for 20 years who served about two years in Atlas Township. Today, she’s the Animal Cruelty Investigator at The Humane Society for Genesee County.
“They had gone through everyone in our family and no one was a match,” said Heidi.
Rebecca Hickmott, a classmate that Heidi had attended EMT school with her a few years earlier, called and asked if she could be considered for the donation.
“When Rebecca called me, I thought ‘good luck,’ so far they shot everyone down that had tried,” she said. “I kind of just blew it off.”
Hickmott, a 31-year-old Mt. Morris Township resident and paid on-call Genesee Township firefighter for the past 12 years had seen Heidi’s post on Facebook.
“Why not give the match a try,” said Hickmott. “I thought, let a kid be a kid for a while and not worry. So, I gave the UM a call, after many, many tests, plus at least a gallon of my blood I was a match.”
“I felt happy and relived and thought Hunter is going to get his life back,” she said.
They set a surgery date.
“When Heidi informed Hunter I was a match he broke down and cried,” she said. “At that point I knew it was worth it.”
The initial surgery was set for Oct. 5, however Rebecca tested positive for Covid just before. Six weeks later Nov. 17 the surgery was a go at Mott Children’s Hospital.
The surgery was four and a half hours.
“The surgeon came in and said it was an absolutely beautiful kidney,” recalled Heidi. “I was thrilled. It’s perfect. And the second they put it inside Hunter it perked up and started working right away.”
Heidi said they leave his bad kidney in and the new kidney is now up front.
“The old kidney will eventually shrivel up,” she added.
Nine days later Hunter came home.
Today, although his immune system is wiped-out and he’s on rejection medication a full recovery is expected. Hunter had started Flushing Middle School but was only able to attend for just four days. He has been learning from home and meets with a teacher twice a week. He plans on returning in mid-January.
“Hunter woke up the other morning and said,’Mom I think my kidney is working,’” said Heidi. “Because I now feel like getting up and not sleeping all the time. It made me feel amazing. He’s getting his energy back.”
Hickmott is also recovering and should be back to work in mid January.
“It’s a long process but in the end very rewarding, she said. “When he’s done healing he can go back to be a normal kid.”
Many people don’t realize that you can live with just one kidney, said Heidi.
“The screening process for the donation is very extensive,” she said. “Hunter was higher on the list due to his age. He may need several kidney transplants during his lifetime with the average kidney lasting about 20 years.”
Anyone who is interested in donating a kidney for Hunter Molyneux can contact University of Michigan Transplant Center at 800-333-9013. Potential donors will receive a questionnaire and can arrange to have their blood drawn to see if they are a match for Molyneux.
All medical expenses for the donor will be covered by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

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