A 15-year old boy in Littleton is in need of a kidney for the second time in his life. From the outside looking in, 15-year-old Joe Wren is your typical high schooler with a deep passion for country music.
While he often plays covers of his favorite artists, Morgen Wallen and Luke Bryan, Wren has started writing his own songs as well.
“It’s just me, who I am, and it gets me away from a lot of stuff,” Wren said.
But behind it all, Joe is fighting a not-so-typical fight. He was born with a rare disorder called Eagle-Barrett syndrome, often called Prune Belly syndrome. According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, it’s often characterized by “partial absence of some or most abdominal muscles giving rise to a wrinkled or prune-like appearance,” and complications can include underdevelopment of the lungs and failure of the kidneys.
“It pretty much destroyed his kidneys before he was even born,” said Sherie Wren, Joe’s mother.
At 3, Joe got his first kidney transplant at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Twelve years later, the same kidney is only 19% functioning and on the decline, his mother said.
“The goal from his nephrologist is to get him transplanted before he has to go back onto dialysis,” Sherie said.
While Joe is on the donor list, it could take months or longer, so one hope now is finding a live donor.
Michigan-based Marty Sheedy is doing everything he can online to help find one. He lives with the same condition and met Joe last year while traveling through the state on behalf of his charitable foundation, Project Scissor Gait. Sheedy and Wren have since become friends and talk often.
“After I had my transplant, I was able to travel and live again. So, I want to provide that same support and get as many people to get tested or to donate,” Sheedy said.
Sherie says Joe’s doctors believe a new kidney will function at least twice as long as the first one, largely due to improvements in treatment and technology over the last decade. She hopes Sheedy’s advocacy and sharing Joe’s story bring new luck in 2021.
“You’re not only helping a person, you’re helping a whole family, a whole generation to have that person a little bit longer or a lot longer,” Wren said.
If you’re interested in the donor process, you can take the first step by filling out a live donor screening at uchealthlivingdonor.org/. Those interested will need to enter Joe’s name as “Joseph Wren” and his birthdate which is 10/20/2005.
Sheedy’s foundation, Project Scissor Gait, is also taking donations to help Joe’s mother with bills, since she will have to take an extended leave from her job after his eventual transplant.