Better Than Santa: Toddler Receives Life-Saving Gift


Pictured Above: Maddox Franz (left) with his very own “Santa,” Jake Dillion (right)

Brian and Sarah Franz were just like any other couple expecting their first child. Anticipation of all the joys the little life would bring filled their thoughts and dreams.

About four weeks before his due date, baby Maddox made his appearance in the world. He had difficulty breathing at first and was kept in the NICU, where he received daily blood labs. On the second day, doctors discovered the baby’s creatinine levels were far higher than they should have been. Further testing revealed Maddox’s kidneys were too tiny to function properly. At about 10 days old, Maddox began nightly dialysis treatments that continued until he received his “gift.”

When Maddox was a little over one year old, the couple received a call from their former neighbor, Teresa Dillion, informing them that her own 23-year-old son, Jake, was willing to donate his kidney so that Maddox could live a more normal life.

How could an adult kidney fit inside a toddler? A kidney from a living donor will last between 15 and 20 years. Even though the child grows, the transplanted kidney will not. So if the kidney lasts 15-20 years, Maddox would be an adult by then and would need to have an adult-sized kidney.

Testing was completed and results came back: the kidney was a match. Surgery was scheduled for 9 a.m. August 13 at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. The procedure took about 5-6 hours to complete. Both patients awoke from surgery in some pain but functioning normally. Doctors explained to the Franz’ that Maddox would have lots of energy and feel better almost immediately since dialysis doesn’t completely remove toxins from the body and the little guy had had over a year’s worth built up in his system. His father said that the very day after surgery, Maddox had a

“sparkle in his eye much brighter than before.”

By the third day, he was walking around and playing as if he hadn’t just had major surgery.

The surgeon performing the procedure was amazed as well. He told the families that

“God made this kidney just for Maddox,”

explaining that veins, tendons, everything matched together perfectly,

“as if Jake’s kidney had been made with Maddox in mind.”

Now in December, the Franz’ say they see just an “amazing difference” in their son. He can now eat by mouth, which he couldn’t do until after the surgery. He ate his first ice cream cone on September 1.

In fact, when I interviewed the Franz’ today, they had just taken Maddox to see Santa (the one that dresses up and sits in stores). They said due to being on the anti-rejection medication, Maddox gets colds easier and takes a little longer to recover but other than that is doing very well. His weekly blood-work is done locally so they only have to make the 130 mile trip to Indianapolis once a month, as opposed to the once or twice weekly trips they had to make before the transplant.

Brian, Maddox’s father, said they are just

“extremely grateful that someone so young would be so willing to do this for us.”

Most people, especially in Jake’s age range, wouldn’t ever have had such a thought cross their minds. For a 23-year-old man’s first thought to be, “I’ll donate my own kidney if it’s a match,” says a lot about his character and the way he was raised.

Just where is the donor in all this? Dressing up in capes and saving the world? Nope, the humble young man is just going about his life, getting ready for Christmas with his parents and two brothers. In an interview this week, I asked what he thought about his act of sacrifice and he said:

“It’s a small price to pay for such a big gift.”

When asked what made him decide to offer to help the family, he replied:

“I decided to do it because I’ve had a healthy life, and why not pass that on to someone in need.”

He may not see it as very out-of-the-ordinary but thanks to this man’s sacrifice, this little family will have a very Merry Christmas this year and for many years to come.