In 2011, at the age of four, Isabella Crutcher ingested a strain of bacteria called E. coli. The bacteria, which are typically found in feces, can be ingested by either a fertilizer, or by merely touching an object that has come in contact with it. After Isabella started showing flu-like symptoms, her parents, Les and Cindy Crutcher, took Isabella to Emanuel Medical Center, where she was put on an IV for hydration as they took samples of the bacterium.
Isabella was then taken to the Children’s Hospital of Central California in Madera where she stayed for 6 ½ weeks. The deadly bacteria had caused acute kidney failure. Approximately 85% of children diagnosed with HUS regain kidney function, however, when Isabella did not, her parents met with doctors at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California, who recommended a life-saving kidney transplant.
After an intense series of testing, Isabella’s kidneys were found to be O-Positive, meaning that she could only receive another O-positive kidney donor. While her mother, Cindy, was found to be A-Positive, her father, Les, was a perfect match. Les then had his own series of testing to be done, including approximately 20 vials of blood taken to ensure the match would be successful.
“The most anxiety was with her,” stated her father, Les Crutcher. “We wanted to know that everything would take and go okay. You don’t really think of yourself in the process, you just do it.”
It was then time for Isabella to take the next step in her journey, which meant receiving a new kidney from her Daddy. This new step brings with it a whole new set of challenges: Immune suppressants, risk of rejection, the need for excess fluid intake, and biopsies. Along with the bad also comes the good: No more nightly peritoneal dialysis, less medications, no risk of infection from an abdominal catheter, and best of all an expanded diet.
In May 2012, a year from her initial diagnosis, Isabella received her kidney transplant from her father. While there have been a couple of hospitalizations since the surgery, due to dehydration, Isabella is full of energy and even discusses her surgery with a smile on her face.
“I have a big scar because the doctor had big hands,” giggled Isabella.
Isabella still has to make trips to the lab and clinic with regular adjustments to medications to help keep the new kidney happy, as an adult sized kidney in a six-year-old body needs to be monitored and well-hydrated. She drinks 3 liters of water daily to ensure that, even in the Central Valley heat, she maintains hydrated. Approximately 6 weeks post transplant, the doctors released Isabella to come back home and she is now back in her own bed and recovering well.
As Isabella will more than likely need another transplant throughout her lifetime, her family has turned to a national charity for help with increasing medical costs. The Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) organizes and guides community volunteers in fund raising to provide for transplant related expenses for kids like Isabella.
COTA is a 501(c)3 not for profit organization and all funds raised in honor of Isabella Crutcher are remitted directly to COTA. The Crutcher family is then able to submit requests to COTA for payment of expenses related to Isabella’s kidney transplant that are not covered by medical insurance throughout her lifetime.
Family and friends are hosting the fundraiser “Walk Your Paws For Bella’s Cause” on September 22nd at Crane Park in Turlock. While the event is a 1 mile dog walk and pet festival, sponsored by Monte Vista Small Animal Hospital and Community Veterinary Clinic, dogs are not required to participate.
The walk will start on the corner of Yosemite Street and Colorado Avenue. The first 100 adult registrants will be guaranteed a t-shirt, doggie bandana and a raffle ticket. Family registration includes multiple family members walking one dog and will receive only one t-shirt. Additional t-shirts will be available for purchase.
The ‘Bark in the Park’ dog festival part of the event will include a K9 Demonstration by Fly Balls, Stanislaus County Sheriff K9 unite, and Valley Agility Sports Team & Great Start Agility Training. It will also include canine contests, rock climbing, and a bounce house.
Registration for the event will begin at 8am, with the 1 mile dog walk beginning at 9am. Food and drinks will also be available, with the event concluding at 1pm.
Visit www.COTAforIsabellaC.com for more information and to download the Walk Your Paws For Bella’s Cause registration form.
“The community has been overwhelmingly supportive,” explained Cindy Crutcher, Isabella’s mother. “They’ve been donating even before we started planning the Walk Your Paws for Bella’s Cause event.”
“Be a donor, donate life,” stated Isabella’s father and kidney donor, Les Crutcher. “The experience and the ability to do it…it was extra special because it was my daughter and there’s an emotional tie, but I don’t know if it would have been any less exciting if it had just been a friend or any other family member.”
Les also thanked the Yosemite Farm Credit organization, where he works, for their support.
“It’s amazing how supportive they are here and how they came together to be supportive,” he said. “I don’t think you find too many companies that would be so supportive and understanding while going through this situation.”
“We learned one thing,” stated Isabella with a smile. “We don’t ever, ever eat germs. Or boogers.”
To read more about Isabella Crutcher and her family, parents Les & Cindy, and older brother Cameron, please visit www.COTAforIsabellaC.com. Also, people on facebook can "Like" the page updating information on the event by clicking here.