SOURCE: SUBURBAN JOURNALS TODAY
As a baby, Josh Nelson couldn't go far. He spent 12 hours a day on dialysis to reproduce the effect of his non-working kidneys. Now, six years after he received an organ from his mother, Carolyn Nelson, he has won the "Ride of a Lifetime."
The Granite City residents will fly to Pasadena, Calif., to help build the Donate Life float on which Josh will ride in the Rose Bowl Parade on New Year's Day.
Every ride is a grand one for Josh, according to the essay he wrote to become the youngest winner in the nine-year contest, sponsored by Astellas, a pharmaceutical company which supports transplants. However, he wants one more.
"I hope they pick us up in a limo," he said.
It will be sort of a birthday party for each of them. Josh will turn 14 on Jan. 5, while his mom gladly will switch an annual double-celebration of her birthday and New Year's Eve for a five-night stay with him at the Sheraton Pasadena Hotel. It will celebrate his own life, while he encourages others to give life through transplants.
Speaking out on the subject is nothing new for him. Even before he knew its meaning, he began publicizing transplants at the age of four.
"I will not be muzzled," insisted the young teen about spreading the word with an insider's view of transplants.
He speaks on behalf of Children's Miracle Network and the Make-a-Wish Foundation. He is a "Passion Panel" member of Mid-American Transplant Services, he wrote in his essay, "because I want everyone to know how important transplants are!"
Josh's odyssey began as dialysis started when he was four days old. When one kidney improved at age three, transplant planning was delayed until he was six.
Carolyn Nelson said Josh started attending Holy Family Catholic School in Granite City, but a delay in the 12-hour treatment, which began daily at 7 p.m., sent him late to school some days.
In his essay, Josh called those 12 hours of dialysis, as he grew older, a "prison." Life with a kidney was entirely different.
"During the school year I play basketball and volleyball," said Josh. "In the summer I swim with Paddler's Pirates. I get to stay up at night."
He attends summer camp in Nashville, Tenn., through Cardinal Glennon Hospital and the National Kidney Foundation, with other children who have had kidney transplants. For his safety, he can play touch football, although he would prefer tackling.
The Nelsons would love to compare a visit to Disneyland Resort with one they already have had to Disney World, but Josh also has his eye on attending the Rose Bowl football game, too.
His mom says "New Life Rises," with the image of a phoenix as the theme of the Rose Bowl float, matches changes in lives of people with transplants.
When Josh returned to Holy Family School after his transplant, Margaret Holland Pennell was his third grade teacher. Now principal, she has glowing marks for the star pupil, whose peers voted him student council president. While she keeps in touch with his progress while working on twice-a-year concerts, Josh shows his caring nature when he knows of the personal challenges of other people, too.
"Life to him is full of purpose and always new and wonderful," Pennell said. "He never meets a stranger. He is very caring to little kids, too. He has a personal relationship with all of us. I will truly miss him next year."
Josh faces his future as he has his past - with a positive face and answer. Being on the Passion Panel of Mid-America Transplant Services sets him on a stage with peers and younger children.
"They always want to see my scar," he said with a resigned laugh. "Kids are more interested in it because they haven't heard about transplants. I told one kid a shark bit me."
More online http://www.transplantexperience.com