Michael McDaniel and his son, Parker, have a special bond, closer than the average father and son.
They share a pair of kidneys.
Parker, 13, was born with Nephrotic Syndrome, which makes his kidneys excrete too much of the proteins necessary for a strong immune system. He went on dialysis at a year old when his diseased kidneys were removed.
Only six months later, his father gave up a kidney that was transplanted into Parker’s tiny body.
“I was the best match at the time,” said McDaniel, who lives with his family in Grovetown.
“At the time, it was obviously something I wanted to do because I was such a close match.”
Now the McDaniels and Parker’s stepmother, Pam, have raised more than $15,000 for the National Kidney Foundation and will be participating in the foundation’s annual Kidney Walk at Turner Field in Atlanta on Saturday.
They raised the money by selling wristbands and raffle tickets for a 55-inch television and lots of personal and corporate donations.
“It’s pretty fun,” Parker said of participating in the Mighty Nephrons, the name of his fundraising team. “I’m not really doing that much. I’m basically the face.”
Parker will speak at opening ceremonies and gets to run the bases.
Parker is a rising eighth-grader at Columbia Middle School and is finishing up his second season playing second base for a Columbia County Recreation Department baseball team.
“He loves it, so we allow him to play,” McDaniel said, adding Parker wears a custom-designed kidney protector to cover his abdomen.
“He’s got some special pretty cool gear actually.”
McDaniel said Parker is doing well, but that wasn’t always the case. He spent most of his infant life in the hospital and had complications after his transplant. Because of the anti-rejection drugs Parker takes, his immune system isn’t very strong, which results in hospitalizations about twice a year for issues like infections and other complications.
He goes for monthly blood work and check-ups.
“He is definitely tough,’ McDaniel said of his son. “He’d have to be to have gone through all the stuff he’s been through. ... He’s awesome.”
McDaniel said they wanted to participate in the walk to raise money and awareness of kidney diseases.
“It’s close to our hearts,” McDaniel said.
“We’ve read and seen other stories. This was the first time we’ve had the chance and opportunity where the dust has settled enough for us to be able to focus on doing this. It’s been such a huge success the first go around.”