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Mother Reflects on Organ Donation That Saved Her Son’s Life

LifeSource Ambassador, and mother, Sara Beattie, shares her son’s journey and the gift that kept her family whole.

Jackson is a high-energy, curious, smart, sweet, 12-year-old who loves to make people laugh. We live in Northwestern WI, where Jackson waits all year for the many months of snow we get in the winter so that he can go snowmobiling and sledding. He loves to play video games and is very proud of his YouTube channel which currently has 210 subscribers! Jackson also loves all things Mario and is very excited to go to Universal Studios in CA to the new Nintendo amusement park. We hope to do this as a family sometime this year.

Jackson’s transplant journey started at birth. Up until that point, I had had a healthy and normal pregnancy, but as soon as I went into labor it became apparent that Jackson was in distress. We found out that he was breech and I would need an emergency c-section, which I now believe was a blessing and an easier birth for him. There was little amniotic fluid and he was having trouble breathing because his lung had collapsed. The NICU team immediately swung into action to save our baby boy. After being stabilized, Jackson was airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, where he was diagnosed with Posterior Urethral Valves (PUV). In the second week of his inpatient stay he had a valve ablation to correct the obstruction and we waited until his creatinine stabilized so that he could be discharged. We were told that Jackson would eventually need a kidney transplant, but doctors were hoping to get him to 7 years old before the surgery was needed.

Jackson as an infant in hospital, surrounded by family

Unfortunately, Jackson’s disease continued to progress rapidly. As he reached his first birthday, he began the evaluation process for a kidney transplant.

When we found out that Jackson would need a transplant, we created a Facebook page with details on how anyone interested in donating could help. It’s a big ask and we knew it. We also felt very fortunate that the local news media shared Jackson’s story to raise awareness for his need and the need for organ donors in general. I was evaluated to be his donor but had an anomaly on one kidney so was eliminated. My brother-in-law was evaluated and was a match initially, but Jackson’s antibodies unexpectedly changed, eliminating him and another potential donor, who was a friend of ours.

We started to feel that the odds were stacked against us. Then the transplant coordinator called and said they had a candidate who they were initially considering for Jackson’s future transplant, but he was being evaluated now. A week later, our 20-year-old nephew, Brett, called to tell us he was approved and was going to be Jackson’s kidney donor. Our initial reaction was fear that Brett would regret his decision or that he was just too young. We discussed it with him, making sure he felt 100% comfortable and happy with his decision. He firmly and resoundingly said yes, he wanted to do this.

That moment when someone knows in their soul, they want to save someone’s life with organ donation is the definition of selflessness and heroism.

Sara Beattie

Jackson and Brett went into surgery on the morning of July 12, 2012. Jackson was just 20 months old. Jackson’s recovery was rough, partly due to the size of Brett’s large kidney in Jackson’s small body. We were told, though, that when you have a rough start like Jackson had, due to a big healthy kidney, it’s a good sign that the kidney will last a long time once Jackson’s body adjusts. They were right!

Jackson celebrated his 10th “Kidney Anniversary” last July and is doing amazing. We still need to go in to have his lab work checked once a month, but Jackson understands that the sacrifices and extra things he has to do to stay healthy are always worth it.

Smiling Jackson leaning against a tree.

Brett is living a very happy life in Texas. He is engaged, loves his career, and has a beautiful home and two dogs. He is now 30 years old. I’ve heard him say many times that being a donor was the best decision he ever made, and he would do it again if he could.

Jackson being here today is the only way I can imagine our family. Any other way, we would have been broken. Brett not only saved Jackson’s life, but he also saved all who love this kid who brings joy to everyone he meets. That moment when someone knows in their soul, they want to save someone’s life with organ donation is the definition of selflessness and heroism.

This story was shared in April of 2023 as part of National Donate Life Month’s, Pediatric Transplant Week.

Thank you to everyone who advocates for those who can’t advocate for themselves.