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Kidney transplant patient's parents faced a difficult decision

Rishi Nair, 5, gets a ride on his mother Mary Lyn Nair at their home in Birch Bay Friday, May 5, 2006. Mary Lyn donated a kidney to her son, Rishi. The kidney was removed from Mary Lyn Nair at University of Washington Medical Wednesday, May 10, 2006 and transplanted into Rishi at Children's Hospital in Seattle a few miles away.
Rishi Nair, 5, gets a ride on his mother Mary Lyn Nair at their home in Birch Bay Friday, May 5, 2006. Mary Lyn donated a kidney to her son, Rishi. The kidney was removed from Mary Lyn Nair at University of Washington Medical Wednesday, May 10, 2006 and transplanted into Rishi at Children's Hospital in Seattle a few miles away. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Deciding on a kidney transplant for Rishi Nair wasn't an easy decision for his parents, Mary Lyn and Mahen Nair of Birch Bay.

Given the side effects of immune-suppression therapy - critical for keeping a transplanted organ healthy in the body - Mary Lyn said she might have preferred sticking with dialysis. She hesitated to trade cumbersome nightly dialysis for an elevated risk of diabetes, liver toxicity and some types of cancer.

While dialysis has kept him alive, she said, it couldn't work forever. And the best time for him to get a transplant is while he's healthy enough to not need one desperately.

Mary Lyn and Mahen weighed the risks and decided the surgery would help Rishi live his life to the fullest.

"We can do so much in this life," Mahen said. "Whatever life Rishi has, we're going to make it really, really good for him."

Prior to Rishi's surgery, his parents learned he qualified to participate in a study of a new kind of immunity suppression drug that carries fewer side effects.

Rishi will be among 35 children across the country testing a new transplant drug therapy that doesn't use steroids, said Ruth McDonald, medical director of the kidney transplant program at Seattle Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center. The regimen also limits the use of tacrolimus, a drug that over time can actually damage the kidney it's meant to protect.

The new drug he'll be using, alemtuzumab, has been studied more extensively in adults, McDonald said. If the kids in Rishi's study do well, larger trials will follow.

The Nairs jumped at the chance.

It might spare Rishi the side effects of traditional therapy.

"This is the key," she said. "This is the better way."

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