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A new kidney gives 10-year-old Bill Chu of Amherst his life back

  • Bill, who recently received a kidney transplant, got a big welcome home poster from his classmates at Wildwood Elementary School in Amherst after he returned home from his surgery in March. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bill’s new kidney is working well, his parents say, and he is back to enjoying activities that were difficult for him before his surgery. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • It’s been a hard road for Bill Chu, whose kidneys had been low functioning since birth and then severely damaged by an autoimmune disease. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • It’s been a hard road for Bill Chu, whose kidneys had been low functioning since birth and then severely damaged by an autoimmune disease. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bill Chu’s new kidney is working well, his parents say, and he is back to enjoying activities that were difficult for him before his surgery. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bill’s illness has been difficult on him and his family, but community members rallied around them with support. With Bill, above, is his mother, Han Chu, at their home in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bill Chu is ready to move on with his life now that he has a new kidney. He is looking forward to a trip to Disney World compliments of the Make A Wish Foundation. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Chu is ready to move on with his life now that he has a new kidney. He is looking forward to a trip to Disney World compliments of the Make A Wish Foundation. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bill Chu’s new kidney is working well, his parents say, and he is back to enjoying activities that were difficult for him before his surgery. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



Staff Writer
Monday, August 07, 2017

The swelling in 10-year-old Bill Chu’s face has gone down. He no longer needs to take a medley of pills to help his damaged kidneys do their work and he feels a whole lot better when he’s riding his bike or going fishing with his family these days.

In March, Bill, who lives in Amherst, received a kidney transplant at Boston Children’s Hospital to replace his own organs which had been low functioning since birth and worsened last year when he developed an autoimmune disease. IgA nephropathy destroyed his kidneys’ ability to filter waste from his blood. Some $30,000 in donations, raised by community members, helped his family defray expenses.

“We were so glad. It feels like a miracle happen for us,” said Bill’s father, Tu Chu, who immigrated to the United States from Vietnam some 20 years ago. “We prayed day and night for this.”

A maintenance worker at the University of Massachusetts, Chu himself is suffering from leukemia.

Bill, who had to undergo months of grueling dialysis treatments in Boston before his surgery, and struggled with blood clots and internal bleeding afterward, would rather not dwell on his ordeal. He preferred to let his parents do the talking during a interview at their home last week while he focused on his favorite past time — playing video games. He sat with them in the living room where a giant “Welcome Home Bill” poster his classmates at Wildwood Elementary School made for him covered one wall.

“We feel like we have a big relief,” Chu said. “Day by day Bill is more stronger. We are very happy about his recovery.”

Bill’s new kidney is functioning as it should, his father said, and his body has shown no signs of rejecting it. He is back to being able to eat foods that had been off limits, like anything high in fat, and is looking forward to a trip to Disney World in Florida paid for by the Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island organization.

“It’s a reward for good job. (Make-A-Wish) said they would take care of everything – airplane trip, hotel, everything,” Chu said.

As soon as Bill no longer needs to take medication to keep his immune system from rejecting his kidney, and his doctors say OK, the family will take a long weekend and head south. It will be their first time in Florida.

“We are very excited,” says Chu.

Bill still has to avoid contact sports, like football, and passed up going to camp this summer. He is meeting with a tutor from his school to catch up on work he missed during the school year. 

The past year and a half has been an emotional roller coaster for the family, Chu notes. Following his son’s grim diagnosis, they had to shuttle back and forth to Boston for Bill’s dialysis, treatments to filter his blood. They also faced mounting bills and uncertainty over whether a donor would be found in time to save Bill’s life.

“All is upsidedown. I feel like in hell,” Chu said in an interview with the Gazette last fall.

At that time, Bill was placed on a national list of patients needing kidney transplants. It was unknown how long he would have to wait.

There are over 93,000 people nationally who are waiting for new kidneys, according to LivingKidney Donor Network, an organization working to educate the public on the need for living donors.

Though typically doctors look to a child’s family first for a living donor when a kidney is needed, that path did not work out for Bill. His father’s leukemia counted him out and his mother, Han Chu, has a blood type that doesn’t match Bill’s. None of his three older siblings could donate for various reasons.

The bright spot was that the Amherst community rallied around the family, helping them get to doctor’s appointments when Chu couldn’t leave work and raising $30,000 of the $50,000 they needed to cover expenses.

A cadaver kidney became available in April and after 10 days in the hospital, some of them rough, Bill was home with his new organ.

“We would like to thank everyone,” Chu said. “Everyone gave us such strong support and make the miracle happen. This time last year, we were nervous. Now everything has changed. We are back to normal life.”

Lisa Spear can be reached at lspear@gazettenet.com.