The search for a rare kidney match for this 3-year-old boy began when he was a baby, when his parents were told he wouldn’t survive without a kidney transplant. Miraculously, their prayers were answered when his mother received a call from the Sheriff’s office.
Seventeen weeks into Angelina Castleberry’s pregnancy, her unborn son, Matthew, was diagnosed with posterior urethral valves, a congenital condition that obstructs the normal flow of urine, in turn, damaging the kidneys and bladder.
After two procedures in utero to address Matthew’s bladder, doctors couldn’t risk having another procedure as the mother was carrying another healthy twin, a girl, in the womb.
At 31 weeks gestation, Callia and Matthew were delivered via emergency C-section.
Strong and healthy, Callia was discharged from the NICU when she was 8 weeks old, whilst Matthew was born with pulmonary hypertension, bleeding in his brain, fluid in his brain, kidney failure, and collapsed lungs.
“Since before he was born, they [the doctors] didn’t think he was going to survive,” Castleberry told KESQ.
In the past three and a half years, Matthew had to visit Loma Linda University Kidney Center four to five days each week for dialysis treatments and undergo 14 surgeries, including the two procedures in utero.
After three failed donor matches, in March, Castleberry finally caught a glimmer of hope when she received a call from Alicia Lopez—her former colleague at Palm Desert Sheriff’s Station.
Lopez, Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy, dropped a bombshell when she informed Castleberry that her kidney was a perfect match for Matthew.
“I didn’t realize how rare this was until she explained it to me over the phone and I just stood there with my mouth open for a minute,” Lopez said.
Despite having to endure the arduous process of preparation during the four months leading up to the transplant, Lopez couldn’t say no when she saw little Matthew.
“When you see his face, it’s kind of hard to say no,” said Lopez, who went to a doctor to determine if her kidney was a match after having learned that Matthew would indeed need a kidney to survive.
On July 31, 2017, Matthew successfully received the kidney from Lopez, after the hours-long surgery.
The moment Castleberry found out Lopez’s kidney was working for Matthew, she immediately visited her at her hospital bedside, KMIR reported.
Castleberry held Lopez’s face in her hands and whispered the good news to her. Both of them shed tears of joy.
Lopez’s sacrifice would give Matthew a new lease of life. The successful transplant also means the end to hospital visits, hospital stays, and dialysis.
“There’s no words that will ever fully express how amazing she is,” Castleberry told NBC Los Angeles. “She’s saving my son’s life.”