Waiting for the future

Jesse Cottle Child relies on dialysis while on a waiting list for a kidney transplant. 

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Jesse Cottle Child, near the stone wall that he built at his home. —Dena Porter

Islander Jesse Cottle Child is in serious need. Although he is currently on dialysis, a kidney transplant is essential, and so far, he hasn’t been able to find a donor match.

Child’s health journey began with a trip to the ER in October 2022 because of stomach bloating and cramps. His partner, Cecily Allen, recounts, “We thought it would be a simple Tums solution, or something.” He had been tired a lot, but Child attributed it to his work as a stonemason. Shockingly, his blood work was really off, and the doctors were perplexed. Eventually, he went to Mass. General for a biopsy, and discovered what was wrong in December of that year. Child has vasculitis, which involves inflammation of the blood vessels that can cause their walls to thicken, restricting blood flow, which can result in organ and tissue damage. In Child’s case, it was severe Stage 4 kidney damage, with his kidney functioning at only 24 percent.

When it became clear that Child needed a transplant, despite their valiant efforts, none of his family qualified, which placed him in April 2023 on a daunting 10-year donor waitlist at Mass. General. 

This last December, Child had surgery to have a catheter put in for his peritoneal dialysis, which uses blood vessels in the lining of the abdomen — the peritoneum — to naturally filter waste from the blood. Although he can administer the dialysis himself, he has to do it three times a day, and be monitored, necessitating traveling to Boston once a week.

Child is deeply rooted on the Vineyard, with family going back 10 or 11 generations to the 1700s. His love for the Island is evident, particularly in his shared pastime of fishing with his grandfather, Nelson Bryant, who has since passed. Bryant, a respected writer for The New York Times for 60 years, significantly influenced Child’s connection to the Island’s outdoor life.

Child grew up here, and found his passion for stonemasonry early on. He started at 17 as a tender for a mason who used to work for renowned Island master mason Lew French. After three years, Child went to work with his brother, who owns a company on the Island. After about 10 to 12 years, Child followed his dream to start his own business, taking on both small and large projects. “No task is too big for me,” he reports. “My health is part of it now, though. But that’s the thing about the work. I enjoy it so much, honestly, it doesn’t feel like work.”

Nonetheless, these days, Child’s ill health has disrupted his ability to focus entirely on his passion. “It was all I thought about before, but I loved it so much, it wasn’t a bad thing. It did consume every waking moment of my life. With this, it’s changed my perspective in terms of putting my health forward. It doesn’t all revolve around the job anymore.”

“I’m trying to live as normal a life as possible,” he continues. “Having the catheter means I can’t lift as much as I used to. I’m trying to work with it, not against it.” He has found ways of coping, such as using more equipment to assist him. “I’m trying to have it not run my life, but to learn to live with it. But it’s there every second now.”

Child’s day starts with dialysis first thing in the morning. For now, the second one can wait until he comes home from work. Then there is one more round to go later in the evening. Child is accepting of the process, saying, “I can’t step away from it, but that’s what it is right now.” 

To handle the stress, he admits, he has to compartmentalize: “I know this is happening, that it’s very real. But if I dwell on it, it could take over. For me, it’s all about staying positive and not having it be the only thing going on in my life.” Child also finds watching light comic movies helps to keep him laughing about things. And he does always have his fishing.

But the reality is ever present. 

“Once you start dialysis, there’s not too much longevity,” Child says. “I need a kidney, is the bottom line. On dialysis, it doesn’t get better. It only gets worse.”

Child feels it is essential to get the word out not just about his situation, but given the odds of being on a donor waiting list, others on the Island need organ donations, too. If you or someone you know can help, it is a profound way to give back to the Island community. 

 

Visit the Mass. General Hospital website at mghlivingdonors.org, where Jesse Cottle Childs is listed.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Hang in there, Jesse. We are going to find you your donor and get you a new kidney.
    Come on MV, let’s do this!

  2. Where do we go to be tested. There should be a registry at the hospital with the island organ donors with appropriate medical information.

  3. Jessie Child,
    My husband, Brent Delehey, has donated a kidney. He started a chain of kidney donors and recipients. In other words, you do NOT need to personally know and match with a kidney donor.
    To find out more about this kidney donation chain, pease go to the National Kidney registry https://www.kidneyregistry.org/. My husband Brent is happy to talk with you. You can email him at delehey@gmail.com. He has helped many people connect with kidney donors on the chain.
    We hope to hear from you soon!
    Molly

  4. The National Kidney Registry forms are available online, and easy to fill out. This will determine if you will be able to be a donor. A mentor will call you. Labs will be arranged. A network of experience, dedication, skill and love.

  5. The National Kidney Register information is easy to fill out. Whether or not you are a candidate to donate will be revealed, and there is a network of support which immediately kicks in.

  6. The National Kidney Register information is easy to fill out. Whether or not you are a candidate to donate will be revealed, and there is a network of support which immediately kicks in.

  7. The National Kidney Register information is easy to fill out. Whether or not you are a candidate to donate will be revealed, and there is a network of support which immediately kicks in.

  8. As someone with several chronic illnesses, I am rooting for you, Jesse! Your bravery is an inspiration. Fingers crossed for you and good suggestions in these comments that can hopefully start the chain to a positive outcome for you.

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