Arizona Teen Visits Rochester, Thanks Those Who Helped Her Survive

When her kidneys shut down, the pediatric nephrology team stepped up

June 19, 2003

While on an historical-church tour that led her across country to Palmyra two years ago, Carly Boyd nearly met her maker in a way she never expected. Suffering from complete kidney failure, the Arizona teen relied on her faith and the skilled staff at Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong to help her recover from a potentially devastating medical condition.

Carly recently graduated from high school, finishing third in her class, and her family offered her the chance to take a trip to Europe or New York City. She chose the latter because it offered her the opportunity to incorporate a June 18 visit to Golisano Children's Hospital, so she could thank those involved in her recovery. "My family and I are so grateful to the pediatric nephrology team," she says. "I want the opportunity to thank them for taking such good care of me."

Carly's cross-country, sightseeing journey began June 12, 2001, and involved multiple stops between Utah and New York. Less than two weeks later, she was one of seven teens who were hospitalized in Canandaigua and diagnosed with E. coli, a form of food poisoning characterized by an inflammation of the small intestine. The prevailing thought is that the teens were exposed to the illness during a stop in Pennsylvania. On June 28, Carly, the most seriously ill, was transferred from F.F. Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua to Golisano Children's Hospital. There, doctors determined the extent of her illness - she was experiencing complete kidney failure.

Some forms of E. coli infection, Carly was told, are associated with hemolytic uremic syndrome, an acute disease characterized by the destruction of red blood cells, a sudden decrease in platelets, and acute kidney failure. A battery of tests proved she was suffering from hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Fortunately for Carly, she experienced kidney failure within driving distance of Golisano Children's Hospital. During the past five years, the hospital's division of pediatric nephrology has expanded, providing additional diagnostic and consultation services for infants, children, and adolescents who suffer from a number of kidney conditions.

 "Carly was in bad shape when we first met her," says George Schwartz, M.D., chief of the division of pediatric nephrology. "She didn't urinate for more than two weeks, and was dependent on hemodialysis. Without it, she would have died.  In addition, she was anemic and had very few platelets, and this put her at high risk for bleeding."

When the Boyd family met Schwartz, they had no idea they were talking to one of the world's experts regarding kidney function in children. More than two decades ago, he authored the Schwartz Formula, a widely used rapid estimate of kidney function. In 1992, Schwartz was recruited to develop and direct the pediatric nephrology program at Golisano Children's Hospital, where he and his staff see more than 1,400 outpatients and hundreds of inpatients annually.

During the last two decades, research by Schwartz and his colleagues has led to a much broader understanding of how the kidney normally adapts to elevated acid levels in the blood. Equally important, the work helps explain why some kidneys don't adapt. The author of more than 70-peer reviewed articles, Schwartz has made the most of continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1979.

It wasn't long before Carly and her family knew she was in good hands. During her three-week hospital stay, she received three blood transfusions and underwent more than 10 dialysis sessions, a tactic employed to remove impurities and waste from Carly's blood because her kidneys are unable to do so.

 "Along with her kidneys, other organs, including her liver and pancreas, failed," says Carly's mother, Lark Boyd. "Yet, we always held out hope for the best. In addition to the wonderful doctors and nurses we encountered, we felt an unbelievable amount of love and support on the spiritual side from family members, friends, and people we didn't know."

Only July 12, 2001, Carly was released from the hospital. Schwartz continued to monitor her health for several weeks, reviewing lab reports issued by Carly's hometown physician. With a bright future ahead of her, Carly plans on attending Brigham Young University in the fall.

During the last decade, Golisano Children's Hospital has assembled a highly regarded nephrology staff. Elif Erkan, M.D., Marc Lande, M.D., and William Varade, M.D., work closely with Schwartz and Marilyn McMullen, P.N.P., to provide the best clinical care possible for children throughout Central and Western New York and, occasionally, Arizona. 

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