Stranger's Kidney Saves Life of Toddler With Rare Disease

As Mother's Day approaches, one Harlem mom is grateful for a gift money can't buy: the kidney that saved her 3-year-old daughter's life. 

Anaya Richards was a year old when doctors diagnosed her with a rare kidney disease, congenital Finnish nephrotic syndrome, and she relied on prolonged blood infusions to keep her alive. But the infusions were deteriorating her veins. 

"The clock was really ticking, and we had to come up with a solution that would involve essentially replacing her kidney function with either a transplant or dialysis," said Dr. Jeffrey Saland, chief of nephrology and hypertension at Mount Sinai Hospital.

"Typically, the kidneys have to be removed to prevent this massive swelling, or the alternative is long-term infusion," he said. 

That's what happened to Anaya one day. Her mother, Ayana Richards, said she heard a piercing cry and knew something was very wrong.

"I wrapped her up in a blanket, it was cold. ... Her head was swollen as big as a basketball," said Richards. 

They spent months in and out of the hospital. Richards volunteered one of her kidneys, and it seemed successful at first -- until a few hours later, when the girl developed blood clots. 

Anaya was sent back to the transplant list, and within months, a matching donor was found. 

"This was a deceased donor. This was a family that lost someone and chose to save someone," said Richards. "I was grateful that it was my child." 

So this Mother's Day, the family will celebrate the gift of life and the village of doctors, surgeons and kind strangers who have helped to make their family happy and healthy again. 

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