Seven-year-old Max Grau loves superheroes. He looks up to the popular ones on TV most boys his age admires. He’s inspired by their heroism, supernatural strengths, and their mission to save the world. Max even has a colorful stash of superhero caps, with matching masks in his closet.
When asked what superpower he wishes he could have, Max will confidently tell you he already has one – his smile. It lights up a room and his chubby cheeks are the kind that make you want to squeeze them and smile yourself. He’s adorable.
Recently, Max and mom Jamie had their first follow-up visit with nephrologist Dr. Dan McKenney and transplant surgeon Dr. Islam Ahmed Ghoneim at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent.
On June 25, Jamie donated one of her kidneys to Max, who was diagnosed at birth with prune belly syndrome.
"Prune belly syndrome is a rare disease which affects the muscles all over the body. It causes significant changes in the urinary tract that makes transplant in these children particularly challenging and requires a well-planned multidisciplinary approach," said Dr. Ghoneim, who Max affectionately refers to as Dr. G.
“We were told Max would need a kidney by the time he was 1. Since he was born, we have been in and out of the hospital but he seems to always get better and come out with a smile,” said Jamie. “With a busy family, life can get in the way.”
Jamie, a 20-year St. Vincent associate who works on the Ascension Information Systems team, delivered Max at St. Vincent Carmel, then transferred to St. Vincent Women’s. He has been a patient at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital his entire life.
“I truly believe God has a plan for us all,” Jamie said, reflecting on 2011, the year Max was born.
That year, on the day before Mother’s Day, Max’s doctor at the time had to practically beg Jamie to go home to rest. She had been spending so much time at the hospital. Her husband and Max’s father Jacob had recently been accepted into a firefighter program and had to be out of town for an extended period for training.
With two other kids, max in the hospital and as a working mom, Jamie wasn’t getting much sleep.
That same day, Jamie’s father drove her home to get some rest and later attempted to take his own life. He survived but was declared brain dead, and Jamie and her siblings made the decision to donate his organs.
“We were able to save seven people. I knew God would take care of Max,” she said.
After extensive testing and procedures, on June 25, Jamie and Max arrived at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital for surgery. Jamie was released the next day and three days later, Max went home.
“We are both doing great. The staff was amazing, and I haven’t had much pain.”
A hot dog lover, Max now has a hearty appetite and he’s gained weight, which according to Dr. Ghoneim is a sign his body is healthy and growing. Max is enjoying the summer with brother Alex, 12, and sister Isadora, 8.
“He always smiled before but now it’s a glow. Overall, life is better,” added Jamie.
Says Max with a huge smile planted across his face, “Dr. G is my favorite.”