Little boy wearing mask doing a thumbs up

Staying at the House Reduced Worry on a Day to Day Basis

18 Months of Reassurances and Friendships

On May 11, 2017, Ashley, Canyon’s mom, received a call from her son’s elementary school. Canyon’s teacher was calling because the 11-year-old began acting abnormally. “He wasn’t acting himself and was putting his head down on his desk a lot. His only complaint was a headache. No fever, no other symptoms. She [Canyon’s teacher] said she would keep an eye on him and make sure there were not any social issues going on (bullying, kids picking on him, a fight with a friend, etc.) and she would call me back,” Ashley explains.

Ashley concerned that Canyon may be anemic, made a doctor’s appointment the following Monday, but by then, he seemed to be back to normal and begged not to go to the doctor. Thankfully, Kris, Canyon’s dad, took him anyway. They discovered Canyon had fallen off the growth chart. The doctor ordered a urine sample which came up with an irregular amount of blood and protein. Immediately, she ordered labs and told Kris to keep their phones on them.

Boy in hospital bed.

A few hours later, Ashley received a call no mother ever wants to receive. “She called me and asked if I was sitting down. She told me Canyon needed to go to Cook Children’s in Fort Worth, immediately. He was in kidney failure and needed dialysis.”

“His only symptoms were headaches and leg cramps occasionally which we always thought were growing pains, because he didn’t show any other symptoms or have any complaints.”

– The Martin Family

After checking into the hospital, they received the news that Canyon’s kidneys were only functioning at about 8%. The doctors diagnosed him with end stage renal disease. Canyon began doing 10 hours of dialysis every night, taking numerous medications, eating a special renal diet and waiting for a call from the transplant list for a kidney. Ashley recalls their first night of dialysis was actually done at the Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth.

Canyon and Ashley began their on-and-off 70 day stay that night. Ironically, the family had been donors of the House for years after a family member’s children were involved in a terrible car accident. They had no idea they would one day use it for their child.

As a mom of six, Ashley knew being away from home would be extremely difficult, emotionally and mentally. Kris and the rest of their children would be home in San Angelo, while Canyon and she stayed in Fort Worth. She describes how the location of the House made her feel safe, though. It’s very reassuring “knowing that we were so close to the hospital in case of an emergency.”

The two loved that the House provided so much for them during their time of need. Their favorite memories include interacting with therapy horses, playing pool together and dinner. Ashley laughs when she remembers how much of a highlight dinner was for the pair. She described how they would run to the calendar each morning to see what would be served that night. “It sounds silly… but it was the highlight of our day – every single day. It was a time for us to socialize with others… and get our bellies full,” Ashley said. It was where they learned about why meal groups served, talked to families about their personal medical emergency and created a community. They even celebrated Canyon’s 12th birthday at the House. “Staying at the house reduced so much of my stress and worry on a day to day basis. I’m not sure I would have gotten through the past 18 months without you all,” Ashley said.

On December 23, 2018, the Martin family received the best Christmas miracle. After over a year of being on the transplant list, there was a kidney available for Canyon! He woke up with a functioning kidney on Christmas Eve. Now, 13-years-old Canyon is doing amazing. Ashley said, “We recently celebrated his one-year kidneyversary!”

To celebrate, the family wrote to the organ donor’s family to let them know how much their “gift of life” meant to them. They let them know how everyday their loved one is living through Canyon, and how thankful they are that their son was given a second chance at life.

Papers with boy sleeping in bed. Canyon holding cake with words saying, "Happy 1 Year Kidney Anniversary!"