Doctors successfully transplanted a new kidney into 3-year-old Nathan Saavedra of Carpentersville Thursday afternoon, and he is now in recovery, according to his mother, Tina.
"He is out and in ICU, but we haven't seen him yet," Tina Saavedra said via text message from Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
Moreover, Kalin Koychev, the 33-year-old Wheeling man who donated his left kidney to the boy the same day, was wide-awake in the afternoon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and was in great spirits after the surgery.
"I'll go the gym, then I'll go swimming then I'll go play beach volleyball," Koychev joked of his post-surgery plans. "Very soon I will, very soon I will."
Nathan's operation began at around 9:30 a.m. Thursday and things went much faster than the first time he received a kidney back in 2010, his mother said, adding that the first operation lasted eight hours.
This one only took 5½.
Several members of Nathan's family arrived at the hospital Thursday morning to support him and await news of his progress from the seventh-floor waiting room.
They include his father Juan, his aunt Kim and uncle Brian Harders and his paternal grandfather, George Breitenfield.
Nathan suffers from prune-belly syndrome, a birth defect that affects the muscles in his urinary tract, resulting in a blockage of urine, which leads to kidney damage.
"They said he is swollen now, so breathing tube left in," his mother said via text message. "He is making urine and on meds to keep pressure up -- kidney needs high blood pressure at the beginning. I'm excited to see him. Praying for no rejection."
The first donated kidney that Nathan received -- from Carpentersville resident Chris Doing -- had to be removed because it had twisted in his body. Because Nathan had built up antibodies since that operation, there was only a 2-percent chance that he'd find a suitable donor.
Koychev read about Nathan's need for another kidney in the Daily Herald and stepped forward to donate one of his. Doctors spent months fighting Nathan's antibodies so that his body will accept Koychev's kidney.
Although Koychev had never been under the knife before, he was never afraid of the surgery and left the outcome in God's hands.
Thursday, he said he felt better than ever.
"It will be an amazing journey, it is just undescribable," said Koychev, who hails from Bulgaria.
Koychev won't see his wife, Sevda, and two young sons until Friday when they come to collect him from the hospital. Upon hearing Nathan's progress, he said, "Awesome. Praise the Lord."
Tina Saavedra estimates that the family owes just $6,500 in medical expenses. If you would like to help, please donate to the Nathan Saavedra Kidney Fund, which you'll find at any BMO Harris Bank.