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‘Just to know that Jacob is here today because of my son...’

by Susan Bromley

June 15, 2011

Jacob Roedel is now a healthy 10-year-old after a kidney transplant two years ago. Photo provided.
By Susan Bromley

Staff Writer

Brandon Twp.- Last Sunday was the 2-year anniversary of Jacob Roedel's kidney transplant.

Jacob, now 10, will honor the memory of the man from whom he received the kidney when he attends the Josh Tolan Gift of Life 5K Run/Walk, which begins at 9 a.m., June 25, at Brandon High School, 1025 S. Ortonville Road.

Julie Roedel, Jacob's mother, received a phone call on June 10, 2009 from a transplant coordinator that a kidney match had been found for her son and he needed to get to Detroit Children's Hospital.

"We were just kind of shocked," said Julie. "You get in such a routine of the day-to-day of dealing with what you're dealing with. We got the call and were like, 'OK.'"

Julie and Jeff Roedel did not know when their son was born that he had a posterior urethral valve, an excess flap of tissue in the urethra that about 1 in 8,000 boys are born with. The blockage was not found until Jacob was 4-years-old and had already done irreversible kidney damage.

Jacob's kidney function was poor, but his condition was treated by monitoring of his diet until 2008 when he began dialysis. Because the Roedels live in Burt, far from any dialysis centers, Jacob had to be hooked up to a machine at home, receiving dialysis for 10 hours a day, every day.

"I didn't like being on dialysis," Jacob recalled. "Every morning I would wake up and had to wait until the machine was done. I stared at it like it was never gonna beep. I had to stay in bed until it was done."

There were other frustrations for him, too. There was food he couldn't eat and he was unable to go swimming, which he had loved before dialysis.

Then the phone call came.

Jacob, his parents, and his grandmother, Kay, drove to the hospital two hours away. Jacob also has an older brother, Jonathan.

Jacob was excited about the transplant and talked a lot about the things he'd be able to do, but Julie, afraid that it might not be a perfect match, tried to keep his excitement in check. She was also having mixed emotions.

"I did know at that time that the donor was 20-years-old and he was somebody's baby and I did have a hard time with that," Julie said, her voice breaking.

Julie didn't know the name of the donor at the time, but it was Josh Tolan, the son of Dan and Renelle Tolan. Josh, a 2007 Brandon High School graduate, had been in a car accident on June 8, 2009, just two days prior to the Roedels receiving the phone call about a kidney for Jacob. Josh was declared brain dead as a result of the accident, but in the midst of their grief, the Tolans knew their son would have wanted to donate his organs.

On June 12, 2009, Jacob received one of Josh's kidneys in a successful surgery. A 41-year-old Michigan received the other kidney, a 39-year-old Michigan woman received his liver, and a 54-year-old Missouri woman named Kally was the recipient of Josh's heart.

Six months after Jacob's transplant, Julie Roedel reached out to Dan and Renelle Tolan, sending them a letter. Renelle responded and last December, the families met at a fundraiser for the Gift of Life Michigan and the Josh Tolan Memorial Scholarship Fund.

"It was extremely emotional without a doubt, but it was rewarding as well," recalls Renelle Tolan. "This little boy walked in with a huge smile on his face, and it was perfect. It reiterated that we made the right choice in deciding to donate. We stay in touch now, send texts back and forth and we're on Facebook. Just to know that Jacob is here today because of my son, that to me is rewarding."

While Jacob was on dialysis waiting for a kidney transplant, he volunteered at Secretary of State offices, telling people his story and encouraging them to sign up to become organ donors.

"You can change someone's life," said Jacob. "My life has been changed. I hear all about kids with all with all kinds of problems and there's people out there just like me, waiting for an organ transplant."

Julie remembers the 20-year-old girl that came out of the Secretary of State office and knelt down to speak to Jacob face-to-face and told him that she signed up to be an organ donor, then showed him the heart on the back of her driver's license.

"Organ donation is very important, and we weren't able to donate to him, none of us were matches, or we had health issues that didn't qualify us," said Julie. "It's very important to be a donor. My favorite quote is, 'Only God can give us life, but we can share it.' I thank the Tolans all the time."

For more information on the Josh Tolan Gift of Life 5K, call Linda Carmean at 248-802-6004 or e-mail