Pediatric nurse to donate kidney to Ascension teen with rare disease

“It was a Christmas miracle, and it is an honor and privilege for me to be able to do this. We are excited.”

ASCENSION PARISH — After months of searching, an Ascension Parish teen in need of a kidney finally has a donor.

Teen Lauren Swanson had been battling a rare autoimmune disease for three years. Doctors diagnosed Swanson with Dense Deposit Disease (C3G). She found out she had a donor a little over a week ago.

Dense deposit disease (DDD) is a condition that primarily affects kidney function, according to the National Institute of Health. 

About half of the people affected will progress to kidney failure within 10 years of being diagnosed, and 85 percent will develop kidney failure within 20 years. The disease is often diagnosed in children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 15. According to DaVita Kidney Care, the rare condition affects only two or three people in every million.

“About a week into COVID, she started showing signs we thought were allergy symptoms,” Lauren’s mother, Toni Swanson, said. “A week into that, we realized it was much more than that. Her legs started swelling.”

Toni said her daughter is a senior and has spent her entire high school career in and out of hospitals. Lauren is the youngest of four kids and wants to be an athletic trainer. One of her goals is to attend LSU.

Lauren’s kidney donor is Lori Vaughn, a pediatric nurse at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, where Lauren was a patient. Vaughn has been a pediatric nurse for 20 years and has worked at OLOL for 18.

“I knew she was ill, and my hospital posted on her behalf on our Facebook page that we had this patient who was in dire need of a kidney transplant,” Vaughn said. “I came home and spoke to my husband and children, and it was on my heart to be tested to see if I could be a match for her.”

Toni said people spreading the word about Lauren’s condition helped make it all possible,

“It came from all of the social and news media attention. It played a big part in it,” she said. “By the grace of God, the right person stepped up at the right moment on the brink of dialysis. God has provided a donor, and we are now waiting for a surgery date.”

Vaughn said Lauren is the same age as her two sons, and she empathized with Lauren’s parents and what they have gone through. Vaughn wasn’t Lauren’s direct-care nurse but occasionally talked with Lauren at the hospital.

“She needed hope that something could help, and I thought maybe it could be me,” Vaughn said. “I visited and said, ‘Hey, if you need anything, I’m an employee here.’ Throughout the four years, I would drop in, say hello, and ask if they needed anything. When it came time for her to really need something, I decided now was my time to step up.”

“It was a Christmas miracle, and it is an honor and privilege for me to be able to do this,” Vaughn added. “We are excited.”

WATCH NOW: Woman scrolling FB saw someone was in need of a kidney, so she donated hers to complete stranger

Lauren is finishing up her first semester of senior year. Toni said her daughter completes her treatment plans and weekly labs.

Lauren, a member of her school’s softball team, will start the season, but her transplant surgery will cut her season short.

“The goal is to be back for graduation,” Toni said. “I know God will redeem everything for her. He has been watching over her the whole time. It’s surreal. We know it’s a huge milestone. She is a quiet warrior. She is happy. She knows it’s time, and she is surrendering to it. She does it like a champ.”

“She is the life of the family,” she continued. “She is the person who, when things get hard, pulls us out and gives us a laugh. She battles this disease and the challenges like a champ. I’m in awe of her. I want to be her when I grow up. God has designed her in a way where she is the epitome of what you want your child to be.”

To support the family, you can donate here.

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