Family stays strong after son’s diagnosis

Published 9:59 pm Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ian Dennis was getting sicker and sicker over the past few months.

The 13-year-old’s parents, Kate and Chris Dennis, suspected his bouts of nausea and fatigue were from a mild concussion he suffered in February when he fell playing with classmates at Forest Glen Middle School.

“I was a little bit more tired, but I felt fine,” Ian said.

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On May 9, the Suffolk residents took their son to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk for a follow-up on blood tests he had less than a week before, after his symptoms had worsened in the weeks prior.

Pediatric nephrologist Irene Restaino met the family at hospital admissions. She was concerned about Ian’s elevated levels of creatinine and dangerously high blood pressure.

“They were scared of a stroke,” Kate Dennis said. “It was really that high.”

Tests revealed that Ian was in stage five kidney disease, also known as end stage renal disease. One of his kidneys was in total shutdown, while the other was functioning at just 6 percent, Kate Dennis said.

“In a matter of four hours, we went from routine blood work to your kid’s in the hospital with complete kidney failure,” she said.

An ultrasound revealed that Ian had a congenital kidney defect.

His kidneys measured six to eight inches, compared to the 12 to 16 inches that’s typical for a child his age. His were those of a 3-month-old to 1-year-old child.

“He was just slowly getting sicker and sicker over the last 12 years, and his body was compensating for it,” said Ian’s father, Chris Dennis, a Chesapeake paramedic for the past 17 years.

A central IV line was surgically implanted into Ian for hemodialysis treatment. He has been traveling from Suffolk to CHKD in Norfolk three times a week since May for two-and-a-half-hour sessions to filter his blood.

“It filters all the waste products your kidneys would typically remove,” Chris Dennis said.

Ian can no longer take showers or go swimming because of the implant. He had to stop playing soccer and any other contact sports. He takes a pill every time he eats according to a strict renal diet that limits his phosphorus, potassium and sodium intake.

“It was really so much to go through and process in such a short amount of time,” Kate Dennis said. “His life has changed a lot.”

The family received an outpouring of support from family, friends and strangers as they began the process of finding a suitable kidney donor for Ian.

“It’s so refreshing and amazing that so many people want to help,” Kate Dennis said.

Fortunately, Chris Dennis was evaluated to be a good match for his son, and the two will go into surgery for the transplant in August.

“It wasn’t even a question, once we found out he needed the transplant,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine who wouldn’t do it for their child.”

Ian will need medication to help prevent his body from rejecting the new kidney, and he will more than likely need another transplant years from now, Kate said.

Ian said he was nervous about the surgery, but according to his parents, the 13-year-old has not complained throughout the whole ordeal.

“He’s been a trooper for the last month and a half,” Chris Dennis said. “He’s been real strong.”

His family has been holding together with him.

“You don’t have time to fall apart,” Kate Dennis said. “You just have to keep going forward.”

Donations are being accepted for Ian’s ongoing medical expenses on the “Ian Dennis Kidney Transplant” page at