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New Jersey
First Pediatric Kidney Transplant Recipient at Cohen Children’s Meets Knicks Great John Starks
Story Number is : 050117112
Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York

When 14-year-old Matthew Francis, of Rockaway Beach, Queens, awoke following the kidney transplant that would save his life, one of the first things he asked his mother was: “When can I go outside and play basketball?”

Thanks to the new pediatric kidney transplant program now offered at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, Matthew can look forward to shooting hoops with his friends in just a few weeks.

During a news conference to introduce Matthew as the hospital’s first pediatric kidney transplant recipient, program medical director, Pamela Singer, MD, explained that Matthew had been diagnosed with a disease known as focal segmental glomerulosis (FSGS), which attacks the kidney’s filtering units (glomeruli). Left untreated, FSGH causes serious scarring, which can lead to permanent kidney damage and eventual organ failure.

“Although FSGS is not considered hereditary,” said Dr. Singer, “Matthew was diagnosed with the condition in 2012. His high blood pressure was being treated with medication until this year, when we realized that he needed to be placed on dialysis. It’s wonderful seeing him here today, looking so healthy and eager to get back to his life. It’s the reason we choose to become physicians.”

Matthew’s mother, Jennifer, also lives with FSGS and hopes to receive a kidney in the near future, too. On dialysis three days a week, she spoke of her devastation and fear when she first learned that Matthew would have to face the same difficulty.

“I’m on dialysis three days a week since January of this year, Matthew was doing it on the other three days,” the mother said. “The only day we had together as a family with my husband was on Sunday…the only day we didn’t have to deal with dialysis.”

Matthew’s transplant surgery took place on April 4. Now, he can look forward to a healthy future, returning to school and, of course, to the game he loves so much.

As a special surprise for Matthew, Knicks great John Starks dropped in to offer Matthew an autographed basketball and some words of encouragement.

After remarking on Matthew’s height (“I think he’s taller than I am!”), Mr. Starks encouraged Matthew to stay focused on what’s important. “Training for a sport is a lot like what Matthew had to overcome in the hospital, which is why he did such a great job,” said Mr. Starks. “He’s going to be fine. He knows what he wants and he’s working on getting better.”

Ernesto Molmenti, MD, surgical director of the pediatric transplant center at Cohen, gave thanks to the deceased donor whose generosity made Matthew’s future a bright one. “Right now, we must remember this wonderful person who felt an obligation to help someone he or she never met,” he said. “I’m sure Matthew’s donor is smiling down from heaven on what we’re saying here today.”

Fielding questions from the reporters in the room, Dr. Molmenti concluded the program by saying, “All you have to do is look at Matthew – and all your questions will be answered.”

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